On April 26, 2021, a government official accused Sishuwa Sishuwa, a University of Zambia (UNZA) professor, of sedition in apparent retaliation for an op-ed he authored.
Sishuwa is a professor of Modern History with a focus on 19th and 20th century African History. Since 2018, he has been on temporary research leave at the University of Cape Town’s Institute for Democracy, Citizenship, and Public Policy in Africa. Sishuwa wrote an op-ed about his concern for potential unrest in Zambia after the general elections in August 2021. On March 19, 2021, an independent local newspaper, News Diggers published the op-ed, and on March 22, Mail & Guardian republished the article.
On March 29, Emmanuel Mwamba, the ambassador to Ethiopia for Zambia and permanent representative to the African Union, published a Facebook post in which he called Sishuwa’s article an attempt to “scandalize Zambia, harm its reputation and impose a false and alarming international narrative” and accused Sishuwa of “being a hired gun.” Sishuwa reportedly sued Mwamba for defamation in connection to the Facebook post. On April 26, Mwamba sent a letter to the Inspector General of Police accusing Sishuwa of sedition. As of this writing, the sedition charge is pending investigation. If convicted, Sishuwa could face at least seven years in prison.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution of a scholar in apparent retaliation of the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression—conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zambia is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting the right to freedom of expression, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, prosecutions intended to restrict or retaliate against expressive activity, when directed against members of the higher education community, undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.