Zambian Singer General Kanene, Pardoned for Sexual Assault, Is Charged Again

Clifford Dimba General Kanene
AP Photo/Tenson Mkhala

Clifford Dimba, also known as General Kanene, outside a police vehicle at the magistrates court in Lusaka, Zambia on Nov. 2, 2015. 

Released from prison after a presidential pardon for a sexual assault conviction, a popular Zambian singer has been charged with assaulting another woman, despite his new role as ambassador against gender violence.

Clifford Dimba, known as General Kanene, was sentenced to 18 years in jail for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl. After serving a year of his sentence, Zambia's President Edgar Lungu pardoned him, appointing the 30-year-old as an ambassador for women and children's rights.

"As you go out there, I would like to commission you to be a messenger ... please don't let me down," Lungu said when he was released in July.

Four days after his release Zambian media reported that Dimba beat his wife. Photographs of the woman's swollen face were published in Zambian newspapers, although she did not file charges against him. In October, Dimba was arrested and charged for assaulting another woman in a pub. He was released on bail.

Sarah Longwe, chairwoman of Zambia's Non-Governmental Organization Coordination Council, criticized the president for pardoning Dimba, pointing out that the musician had recorded a song praising Lungu during his 2014 electoral campaign.

"He should not put his name to someone who has committed a crime like that," said Longwe.

"The pardon and appointment undermines the strong message against sexual abuse of women and girls that was sent with the original sentence, and trivializes the serious nature of these offences," said Dubravka Simonovic, United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

Fans of Dimba's music are divided over his treatment of women.

"The appointment was well intended but Kanene is abusing it now. I think the ambassador position needs to be withdrawn immediately and let justice prevail," said Sindy Phiri, a vendor in her early 20s.