YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Jesuit Father Leonard Chiti says he is “appalled” by the decision of the police to invade the office of Bishop Clement Mulenga of Kabwe Diocese in Zambia.

On Friday, police stormed the office in an attempt to disrupt a meeting between the Church leader and Zambia’s former president, Edgar Lungu.

The police accused the former president  and Catholic bishop of holding an illegal meeting.

“You are not supposed to have a meeting inside. You know our security system,” a policeman told Mulenga.

“As the police, you need to inform us when someone is coming. I am saying that you are not supposed to have a meeting because it’s clear that you have a meeting here,” he said.

The bishop responded by saying as a pastor, his doors are open to everyone, irrespective of political affiliation or ethnicity.

“This is a church, a public office that receives anyone who makes an appointment,” Mulenga told the police.

“People come here, and if they want to share something, they are free to do so with me,” he continued.

“I am not a politician; I am a religious person. I have nothing to do with politics but everything to do with religious life. Every human being who makes an appointment has the right to see me, including you,” the bishop said.

He added that even members of the government, those who are not in government, “Catholics, non-Catholics everybody has the right to come and see me.”

Chiti – the Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in Southern Africa, which includes Zambia – told Crux, “a bishop is a pastor of everyone regardless of their status in life, position, political alignments etc.”

“As a pastor he is available to meet anyone who seeks his pastoral care,” he said, condemning the action of the police “in intruding into what appears like a private meeting between the former President and the Bishop of Kabwe.”

“There was no courtesy whatsoever and the arrogance and insolence exhibited by the police cannot be tolerated in a society like ours which in fact calls itself Christian,” Chiti said.

“The least the police could have done is to have waited for the meeting to end and if necessary inquired politely and professionally what the meeting was all about and perhaps advise the parties involved as to the risks of such meetings in the current political climate of our country,” the Jesuit said.

He said the action of the police was a violation of human rights, echoing a sentiment already expressed by the country’s Human Rights Commission.

On Monday, Commission chairperson Dr. Pamela Towela Sambo warned police against abusing the Public Order Act. She noted that Zambia remains a working democracy with the right of political leaders to freedom of association and assembly and took issue with the invasion of the bishop’s office.

“The Commission strongly condemns the invasion of the Catholic bishop’s office by the police in an attempt to suppress Mr. Lungu’s enjoyment of the rights to freedom of association and assembly,” Sambo stated.

Politicians have also joined in the flurry of condemnations. In a Facebook video, Opposition New Heritage Party president Chishala Kateka said that “the democratic space [in Zambia] is shrinking.”

Addressing the country’s President Hakainde Hichilema, Kateka said, “a church is a place that should be respected and there is no reason to send policemen into a church where there is no crime being committed.”

“It makes me believe that you and your government would do the same kind of thing that happened in Rwanda. In Rwanda, police and militia were being sent into churches-massacring people in churches because those in leadership had no respect for the Church,” she added.

“Collectively as Zambians, we must not allow this…It is our right to have meetings, whenever and wherever we wish to have them,” Kateka insisted.

The government has apologized to the Catholic Church for what happened.

The Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Jack Mwiimbu described the incident as “unfortunate and regrettable.”

On May 19, he said the government cherishes the relationship between the state and the church, and noted that the government has never stood for the harassment of anyone, much less the clergy.

“We would like to sincerely apologize to the Catholic Church and particularly Bishop Clement Mulenga of Kabwe diocese pertaining to the incident that happened in Kabwe,”  Mwiimbu stated.

“We are studying this incident not only what is seen in the video but also considering the unseen events and circumstances,” he said.

But the incident marks the second time that Zambia’s police have prevented the former president from freely interacting with Zambians, citizens as well as the clergy.

Lungu’s public appearances are now considered a potential threat to national security. Last week, he caused a stir in Lusaka when he spontaneously greeted and mingled with ordinary citizens, effectively stopping traffic in the city streets.

But it is the first time the office or home of a bishop has been raided, according to Chiti.

“This has never happened in the history of a peaceful and united nation like ours,” the Jesuit said.

“I don’t know why a professional police service would act in the manner it did. This action raised more questions about why a senior police officer who one would hope has been well trained and is well versed in the provisions of our constitutions with respect to the bill of rights would act in the manner he did,” he told Crux.

“It seems to me like the relationship between the sixth President [Lungu] and the current administration is toxic,” the priest said.

“I would recommend that a dialogue be initiated between the two parties to resolve the tensions that are occurring in our political space at the moment. I believe such a course of action would prevent similar occurrences in the future especially as we head towards the 2026 General elections,” Chiti said.