The Zambian government on Tuesday assured foreign businesses of safety, one day after shops run by Rwandans in the capital Lusaka were attacked and looted by local residents.
The violence and looting took place after residents in some densely populated areas in Lusaka accused the Rwandans of being behind a spate of ritual killings in the city. The residents also accuse the foreigners of taking business opportunities away from the locals.
At least seven people have been murdered in the last one month in Lusaka and four suspects have since been arrested. Minster of Home Affairs, Davies Mwila, called for calm and said the xenophobic attacks "must come to an immediate end". "The anti-social and criminal conduct seen in the high density areas north and west of the city of Lusaka must come to an immediate end," he said in an address to the nation on the state broadcaster.
Mwila has since assured the business community and the general public of their safety, saying the police have deployed enough officers to contain the situation and bring the culprits to book. "The Zambia police service has deployed adequate manpower and has so far apprehended suspects in connection with the looting.
"We must all remain calm, support the police and isolate all those involved in these criminal activities. We must continue to uphold the law and avoid taking the law into our own hands," he said.
Mwila said the violence was sparked by false rumors of the release of a foreigner arrested in connection with ritual killings. Shops owned by foreigners have remained closed for fear of the violence. Local media report that some foreign nationals have sought protection in police stations in the townships of Lusaka, following allegations that the violence may continue.
So far, over 250 people have been arrested in connection with the lootings while the number of looted shops stands at 65, according to police spokesperson Charity Munganga-Chanda.