• More than 60 foreign-owned shops in Lusaka, Zambian capital, have been looted following the riots which have since spread to nine poor neighborhoods.

    The riots started on Monday, after rumors that Rwandans were behind recent ritual killings in Lusaka.

    The Home Affairs Minister Davies Mwila reportedly said that the two were Zambian nationals killed “in the confusion”.

    Many Zambians have described the attacks as the worst xenophobic violence in the country.

    Already, more than 250 people have been arrested after the two days of violence and looting.

    Since March, six people have been murdered in mysterious circumstances and their body parts removed. People hold the notions that the body parts would be used as charms to guarantee success in business.

    Tough economic times

    However, the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) has said that this week’s xenophobic riots were due to a challenging economic situation which has fueled social tensions.

    Security has been heightened in the affected neighborhoods, with the presence of police strengthened in the area. According to a statement by the EIU, there are few indications that the unrest will escalate further.

    “We maintain our forecast that high inflation and a subdued economic outlook will heighten social tensions,” it said.

    The EIU said that although the riots might have been triggered by the suspected ritual killings, tough economic times including rapidly rising the cost of living and high rates of unemployment among the youth augmented the frustrations among locals, especially young people.

    The firm noted that the thriving small businesses owned by foreigners in the affected areas, while ordinary Zambians grappled with tough economic climate, might have increased hostility towards the foreigners.

    Speaking of the attacks, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Country Representative Laura Lo Castro called on Zambian’s to maintain the “unblemished high reputation respected by the international community, of being hospitable to foreigners, including refugees”.

    She lauded the Zambian government efforts in controlling the situation and urged it to employ all resources to ensure that the matter does not get worse, as well as prevent any future incidents.

    The EIU said that the riots erupted after the police failed to reveal the identities of the 11 suspects arrested in connection with the six murders that have happened in the last two months.

    The rioters had demanded to know if the suspects were all foreigners.

    Most of the foreigners targeted in the recent attacks are Rwandans who escaped to Zambia from Rwanda following the 1994 genocide. Rwandans and other foreigners had to seek refuge at police stations as rioting and looting continued to spread fast across the densely populated areas in the capital.

    Image credit: AFP