A singer in Zambia convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl in 2014 is serving as an “ambassador in the fight against gender violence.” Clifford Dimba served one year of an 18-year prison sentence for the rape before being pardoned by the President in 2014. Since then, and after being appointed to the ambassador position, he’s been arrested twice more for violence against women.
Two United Nations human rights experts are calling on the government of Zambia to consider appointing just about anyone else as their ambassador against gender violence. Dimba, who performs under the name General Kanene, was convicted in 2013 of raping the girl in Lusaka, the country’s capital. It was touted at the time as one of very few rape convictions secured each year in a country that’s plagued by child sexual abuse.
While he was in prison, Dimba quickly began professing himself to be very interested in the problem of “gender violence,” releasing a video of himself performing in jail with the following description:
“As a professional musician, Mr. Dimba is using his time in prison creating messages of awareness on the negative effect of Gender Based Violence through songs such as this one. In this song he advises couples not to abuse each other or slander themselves in public, but instead try to resolve their differences in privacy.
Soon after, Dimba won a pardon—this next part is true, not a joke—by writing a flattering song about President Edgar Lungu. He was released from prison in the summer of 2014. He was then given a shiny new appointment as the anti-gender-violence guy, which the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights calls “outrageous”:
“Such an outrageous release and appointment as an ambassador for the fight against gender-based violence not only traumatises the victim all over again but discourages other victims from reporting similar offences,” said Dubravka Šimonović, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.
“The pardon and appointment undermine the strong message against sexual abuse of women and girls that was sent with the original sentence and trivialise the serious nature of these offences,” Ms. Šimonović said. “Rather, Clifford Dimba has been placed in a prominent position and even portrayed as a role model to fight violence against women.”
Four days after his release on the rape charges, Dimba was also arrested for allegedly abusing one of his wives, reportedly because she refused to have sex with him. (Dimba has three wives; polygamy is legal and somewhat common in Zambia.) In October, he was arrested again for allegedly assaulting a 32-year-old woman, whose relationship to him is unknown; Dimba responded to the charges, according to the publication Zambian Watchdog, by accusing the woman of being a “prostitute” and saying he didn’t know her.
“In a normal country run by a sane president, Kanene’s pardon for his earlier criminal case would be revoked, meaning he would serve that sentence as well,” wrote Zambian Watchdog.
It’s unclear what Dimba is meant to do in his presumably ceremonial position to prevent gender-based violence, although not raping any more children or further abusing his spouse or any other women would surely be a good start.
Clifford Dimba performing in prison. Screenshot via YouTube/Raymond Kankomba