Alleged espionage concerns have prompted the government of the African country of Zambia to issue a new order to enforce a standing measure that prohibits police officers from marrying foreigners, a police spokesperson has revealed.
“Be informed that the Police High Command has with immediate effect directed that no police officer should marry a foreigner,” states a January 11 memo issued by Zambian police inspector general (IG) Kakoma Kanganja.
The new enforcement order has sparked public outrage, reports Africa Review.
“Zambians took to social media to criticize the move, after the order was leaked to the public, saying it was unlawful as it violates the officers’ right to choose a spouse,” it adds.
Nevertheless, Esther Katongo, a police spokeswoman, defended the measure saying officers are informed about it before joining the service.
“Issues of security are delicate. If not careful, spouses can be spies and can sell the security of the country,” said Katongo, according to BBC.
In explaining why the ban is necessary, she added, “When you get married, they say that you are one. You know what marriage is – you share secrets. And you can tell officers ‘do not disclose’ but you have no control. You won’t be in their homes to always check on them.”
Police officers have reportedly began to ignore the standing ban so the government issued a new order to enforce it.
“There are a few officers who have started marrying foreigners,” revealed Katongo. “They are ignoring the previous requirement and this is why another standing order has been passed to remind officers what they are supposed to do and not supposed to do.”
According to police IG memo, officers who are already married to foreigners must declare their status within a week.
Failure to do so would “attract disciplinary action,” warns the document, BBC reports.
Antagonism towards foreigners in Zambia is not unprecedented. In April 2016, anti-foreigner riots targeting Rwandans in the Zambian capital of Lusaka resulted in at least two people being burned to death.
The foreigners had been accused of being behind a string of ritual killings in Lusaka. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the violence had been fueled by the “murders of at least seven people, whose body parts such as ears, hearts and penises had been removed.”
“Hundreds of residents stoned houses and shops owned by foreign nationals, with some foreigners seeking refuge at police stations as looters took food, drinks, refrigerators and other electrical appliances,” added the news agency.
Lusaka is reportedly home to several thousand refugees from Rwanda.
“They run many of the shops in the affected parts of the city, and residents have accused them of using the body parts for witchcraft,” pointed out AFP.