U.N. Outraged After Convicted Rapist Given A High-Profile Women's Rights Post

Photo: Tenson Mkhala/AP Photo.
The singer Clifford Dimba, pictured here in November, was released in July after serving one year in prison.
When Zambain singer Clifford Dimba was convicted in 2014 of raping a 14-year-old girl, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

But just a year later, the musician, also known as General Kanene, walked free thanks to a presidential pardon. Soon after, he was appointed an ambassador for women's rights.

That series of events, outlined in a release from the United Nations Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, has sparked widespread outrage and condemnation. Dimba has been accused of assaulting at least two other women, including his own wife, in the months since his release from prison, according to The Associated Press.

United Nations human-rights expert Dubravka Šimonović blasted the release and appointment as "outrageous," saying the move "not only traumatizes the victim all over again but discourages other victims from reporting similar offenses.

"The pardon and appointment undermine the strong message against sexual abuse of women and girls that was sent with the original sentence and trivialize the serious nature of these offenses," Šimonović, a U.N. Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said in a statement. "Rather, Clifford Dimba has been placed in a prominent position and even portrayed as a role model to fight violence against women."

The U.N. division called on the government to revoke the appointment.

Dimba, who reportedly wrote a flattering song about the country's president in 2014, told reporters that he was "honored" by the appointment, according to the website Zambia Reports. He said he hopes people learn from his mistakes and do not commit acts that will land them in jail.

Refinery29 has not been able to reach Dimba for comment. A request for a statement from the Zambian government was not immediately returned, but Zambian President Edgar Lungu reportedly spoke publicly about his decision when he ordered Dimba's release in July.

"As you go out there, I would like to commission you to be a messenger…please don't let me down," Lungu said, according to The Associated Press.

Zambia suffers from widespread corruption, according to Transparency International. Some 42% of Zambians reported paying a bribe in 2010, and more than two-thirds of people surveyed believe corruption is getting worse. Read more here about how one female journalist is holding Zambia's government accountable on corruption and human-rights violations.

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