Bush urged to act on "African World War"
Washington - A US lawmaker back from a visit to the DRC has described the vast central African nation as "a ticking bomb," calling on President George W Bush to make Africa a top foreign policy priority. "The Congo is a ticking bomb," Representative Frank Wolf told reporters, noting six African countries - Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia - have had troops fighting there for more than three years. "It is, if you will, an African world war," said the Virginia Republican, who met with the late DRC leader Laurent Kabila just days before he was assassinated.
Wolf said it was too soon to tell how the DRC's new leader, Kabila's son Joseph Kabila, would deal with the situation. The army major general, believed to be in his late 20s or early 30s, is due to be sworn in Friday. Wolf called on Bush to create a task force to thoroughly review US policy toward Africa, work on debt relief for the poorer nations and appoint a special envoy to the region. The envoy, Wolf said, had to be a high-profile diplomat "with a direct line to the president." US Secretary of State Colin Powell, however, has suggested many of the special envoy positions from the administration of former president Bill Clinton may not be renewed, which could include Jesse Jackson's appointment as US Democracy envoy to Africa. Bush's administration also has yet to announce specific policies toward Africa.
Wolf, describing the toll that prolonged war, famine and AIDS are inflicting on sub-Saharan Africa, insisted the United States had to remain involved, particularly in the DRC and Sudan. "We (US) have made a difference in Northern Ireland. We have worked to stop the violence among ethnic and religious factions in Eastern Europe. We are attempting to bring peace to the Middle East. It is time to focus on Africa," he said.
From The Star (SA), 26 January
Zim government promises clampdown on protests
Harare - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's government said on Friday it would deal ruthlessly with attempts by the opposition to force it out of power through mass protests. "Any attempt to remove the government of Zimbabwe by unconstitutional means will be dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly and within the provisions of the law," Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo told a news conference. The MDC has promised to organise mass action - including strikes and street marches - against the government. It has not said when it will stage the protest after suspending one planned for last December. "What the MDC calls mass action is in fact an insurrection. The security arms of the state will be in full force to ensure law and order throughout the country during the intended insurrection," Nkomo said on Friday. "I have accordingly instructed the arms of the state to be ready for the task to defend our gains." He accused the MDC of also planning to hijack a civil servants' pay strike that began on Wednesday…
From The Daily News, 27 January
Farmer injured in war veterans attack
Boet Jacobs, a Chivhu commercial farmer, sustained serious injuries after an attack by six axe- and stick-wielding war veterans at his Badza Farm on Wednesday. Jacobs was rushed to The Avenues Clinic in Harare where he is being treated. Malcolm Boyland, managing director of the hospital, confirmed yesterday that Jacobs was in the hospital but refused to give details of his condition.
Commercial farmers said Jacobs was attacked by six war veterans who have been occupying the farm since February last year. The official said trouble started when the war veterans drove Jacobs' cattle into the security fence surrounding his residence. A farm worker is alleged to have alerted Jacobs. "While Jacobs was coming from the workshop, the six war veterans attacked him with axes and sticks," said the CFU official. "They left him unconscious for some time. He sustained multiple facial injuries. He had a deep wound on the back of his head. He had an axe wound on his right forearm".
Jacobs engages in mixed farming on his Badza Farm. Chivhu police yesterday referred all questions on the incident to Harare, where the police spokesman, Wayne Bvudzijena, said he could not assist as he was not in office. More than 33 people, five of them white farmers and most of them supporters of the opposition, were killed, some of them on the farms, in the run-up to the June parliamentary election. The latest victim was a Kwekwe farmer and former Member of Parliament, Henry Swan Elsworth. He was killed outside his farm by unknown gunmen last month. There have been no arrests.
From BBC News, 26 January
Funeral trouble in Zimbabwe
Bulawayo - Trouble erupted on Friday at a funeral service in Bulawayo in Zimbabwe for a soldier killed in the DRC. President Mugabe's decision to send thousands of troops to help his ally, the former President Kabila, in the DRC, has not proved popular in Zimbabwe. Tempers flared when army officers present at the service told the bereaved family, including his twin brother, that there could be no viewing of the body because it was in such a bad state. When they then told the family to proceed with the burial they refused to go ahead. Some demanded to know what the army officers were hiding.
The drama was eventually resolved when the officers were told of an unusual custom of the Shangaan speaking people. According to the custom, if the living twin is not allowed to see the body of his twin brother, he too dies in less than 24 hours. Shangaan elders say it has happened in the past and the tradition should be respected even by the government. In the end, the officers felt they had no choice but to allow the family and the surviving twin brother to see the body of the dead soldier.
At the funeral service, speakers could hardly contain their anger at the government's continued involvement in the war in DRC. Military officers kept on interrupting them asking them to stick to the word of God and stop talking about politics. Even so, one speaker told the mourners that their children were dying for nothing in the Congo. Residents told me there have been eight other funerals of Zimbabwean soldiers killed in Congo just in the township suburb of Cowdray Park. Army drivers have been working overtime transporting mourners to different houses in the township. Zimbabwean army casualties from DRC are not reported officially and journalists questions are not answered by army headquarters or the ministry of defence. Information about the war is withheld for security reasons.
From The Independent (UK), 27 January
Tight security in Kinshasa as President Kabila is sworn in
Ten days after his father's assassination, Major-General Joseph Kabila was sworn in yesterday as the fourth President of the DRC since its independence in 1960. His much-anticipated first speech to the nation was due to be broadcast on television last night. Although his selection by the government and military leadership has been criticised by many in Kinshasa as monarchic and anti-democratic, observers hope his appointment will mark a generational shift that could herald peace.
The DRC, Africa's third-largest nation, has been at war since August 1998 with rebels backed by Laurent-Desire Kabila's erstwhile allies, Rwanda and Uganda. They backed his march on Kinshasa in 1997 when he succeeded Mobutu Sese Seko, who had been in power for 32 years. Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia have also been drawn into the conflict. If President Kabila signals that he wants a cessation, new peace efforts launched this week by Belgium, the former colonial power, are likely to bear fruit. Yesterday's ceremony at the Palace of the Nation sent few clear signals. But observers said it was significant that President Kabila, thought to be 29, did not appear in uniform, opting for a blue suit, and that he spoke French - the most widely spoken national language. As during his father's funeral last Tuesday, tight security was provided by troops from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia. The government decided against lifting a night curfew that has been in force almost continuously since the assassination in the capital.
From Pan African News Agency, 26 January
Adviser Cites Foreign Involvement in Kabila's Assassination
Lome, Togo - "A preliminary inquiry proves that a foreign and enemy hand had expertly prepared President Laurent Kabila's assassination," a presidential adviser of the DRC, Constantin Nono Lutula, said Thursday. "When the time comes, the Congolese people will be informed, as well as Africa and the whole World," Lutula added. Lutula, who has been designated adviser to President-designate, Joseph Kabila, was speaking after holding talks with President Gnassigbe Eyadema, current OAU chairman, at his home village of Pya. "An event we all deplore took place at home. That is the assassination of Mr Laurent-Desire Kabila by a bird-brained Congolese, actually one of his bodyguards, but armed by a foreign hand," Lutula said. He said there was unanimity within the Public Salvation Government and the army to hand over power to Maj.-Gen. Joseph Kabila.
From The Star (SA), 26 January
Dos Santos fires Angolan army chief of staff
Luanda - Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos sacked his army chief of staff on Friday, bringing further uncertainty to the region after the killing of the DRC's president, Laurent Kabila. No explanation was given for the sacking, announced in a presidential decree, of General Joao Baptista de Matos. The decree said deputy defence minister Armando da Cruz Neto would replace him. Matos had held the army's top job since 1992. Angola, along with Zimbabwe and Namibia, has been supporting the DRC government in its war against Ugandan and Rwandan-backed rebels that erupted in August 1998, and fighting Unita rebels at home.