The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Zimbabwe: staring into an abyss of savagery

      December 28 2002 at 08:35PM

    By Basildon Peta
For most Zimbabweans 2002 was the most difficult in 22 years of
independence, but the new year promises even greater misery.

As 2003 beckons, President Robert Mugabe has already signalled that his
focus will remain on his knack for the extraordinary to entrench his
position instead of policies that will reverse his country's relentless
decline into squalor.

In an unprecedented move yesterday, Mugabe's government announced that it
was imposing price controls on the prices of newspapers. The newspapers will
now sell at their current prices and no more increases will be sanctioned.

The move will suffocate many independent newspapers that don't get state
subsidies and have been grappling with production costs that increase every

Newsprint costs have increased by more than 300 percent in the past few
months, leaving publishers with no option but to increase their cover prices
regularly. For instance, the privately owned Daily News, which cost Z$2
(about R13) when it was launched three years ago now sells at Z$100.

Many Zimbabweans will naturally wonder how state control of the prices of
newspapers will put food on their tables.

Mugabe's government also gazetted controlled prices of school uniforms,
rice, toothpaste, electrical appliances, body lotions, hair care products
and building materials. The move means Zimbabweans will have to do without
almost every commodity required for daily livelihood in the new year as
manufacturers stop producing them at a loss.

The decision to control the prices of newspapers is widely seen as a
deliberate ploy to destroy the private press and entrench Mugabe's
autocracy. While this year Zimbabweans grew accustomed to going without the
very basics such as maize meal, bread, milk, cooking oil, sugar and salt,
many will be disappointed to learn that their children will no longer be
allowed to enrol at tertiary colleges without proof of support for Mugabe's

Shuvai Mahofa, the youth development, gender and employment creation deputy
minister, told the weekly Standard newspaper that secondary school graduates
would no longer apply directly to tertiary institutions for places.

Instead they would apply to a committee of six cabinet ministers tasked with
first vetting whether they had undergone the national youth service before
being considered for places at colleges.

The decision means thousands of pupils wishing to pursue tertiary education
would be automatically rejected as preference would go to the Zanu-PF

Zimbabwe's annualised inflation hit a record high of 175,5 percent last
month despite the price controls, but it is expected to spiral to 200
percent in the new year. The International Monetary Fund expects it to hit
500 percent in the first few months of next year despite the price controls.

The central bank has run out of the paper required to print the worthless
Zimbabwe dollar and the local currency is now in short supply. Commercial
banks have started rationing the amount that can be withdrawn from the
banks. The central bank has no foreign currency to buy the paper amid the
worst fuel crisis in the country's history.

The registrar-general's office has also run out of paper to produce
passports and Zimbabweans eager to leave their country will now wait for at
least one year to get passports. With no respite expected next year,
Zimbabweans are expected to focus more and more on how they can extricate
themselves from Mugabe and his discredited isolationist policies.

"None but ourselves are to blame for what has gone badly wrong in Zimbabwe.
A people get the leadership they deserve. How could any sane people put up
with this terrible situation," wrote Bornwell Chakaodza, a respected
academic and editor of the Standard.

"The capacity of Zimbabweans to tolerate this tragedy is amazing. Is it just
plain lunacy or stupidity on our part?" - Independent Foreign Service
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Comment from The Tablet (UK), 21 December

Archbishop Pius Ncube - A hero's witness

By Michael Auret, former Director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and
Peace in Zimbabwe

"I come to you today to appeal to you for prayers to ease our most serious
situation in Zimbabwe, and to appeal to you to lobby, by all means possible,
for a peaceful solution in the Zimbabwean crisis. We face an absolutely
desperate situation in Zimbabwe and our government is lying to the world
about it. Our government continues to engage in lies, propaganda, the
twisting of facts, half-truths, downright untruth and gross misinformation,
because they are fascists."

These were the opening words of Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo in
Zimbabwe as he delivered the 2002 Archbishop Hurley Lecture. The archbishop
was clearly under some stress, and as he spoke the emotion in his voice and
his body language was obvious. His deep concern for the people of Zimbabwe
and, in particularly, the people of his diocese, who have suffered so much
for so long, added power to his message. In recent months Archbishop Pius
has been the butt of unsavoury innuendo and ridicule from the
government-controlled media in Zimbabwe. For example, the Chronicle in
Bulawayo has alleged there was a "surprising increase in homosexual
pornography in Khami prison" after Archbishop Ncube visited the inmates.
Such slurs are the work of Jonathan Moyo, the propaganda minister. Most
recently Archbishop Ncube has been accused of trying to prevent development
in his diocese by refusing to hand over his hospital at Lupane, St. Luke's,
for government use as a provincial hospital. The reasons for the
archbishop's reluctance are very clear, as the government health facilities
have all but failed. There are no drugs, few trained staff, inpatients are
not fed, nor must be fed by relatives bringing in food when there is none,
and equipment is either lacking or in disrepair. But under Church control,
the hospital is providing a remarkable service to the people, as it has done
for many decades, throughout the liberation struggle and the Matabeleland

Archbishop Ncube spoke of the many thousands of his people who are facing
almost certain starvation, not only because food is very scarce, but also
because the government will not allow supplies to people perceived to be
supporters of the opposition party. Indeed, several tons of food lie rotting
in a church hall near Bulawayo, after the so-called war veterans, acting on
government instructions, stopped the distribution. Archbishop Ncube's lone
Catholic voice has recently been supported by leaders of the non-Catholic
churches in Matabeleland. They announced: "We fully support Archbishop Pius
Ncube's statement of 6 November as reported on the BBC. We hear the cries of
the suffering, the harassed and starving people of our country for help."
They added: "We condemn in the strongest terms the action of (President
Robert) Mugabe and his government in hijacking food supplies and
distributing them in a partisan way and in hindering the work of
non-governmental organisations and other concerned bodies in their efforts
to feed the hungry and suffering people in our midst." Unhappily, Mugabe and
his cronies have so divided the church hierarchy along racial and tribal
lines that Archbishop Ncube is isolated in his struggle. The Catholic
Church, which played such a leading role as the voice of the voiceless in
the past, has itself become all but voiceless. This tactic was less
successful in the early 80s, when Mugabe first tried to divide the bishops
on those grounds. Then the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference approved a
statement from their Commission for Justice and Peace: "It should be clearly
understood that the Catholic bishops of Zimbabwe stand united, and when they
speak publicly they speak with one voice."

More than two years ago I wrote to Rome to warn the Pontifical Council for
Justice and Peace that Mugabe would become a serious embarrassment for the
Church. I even used such exaggerated words as "ostentatious Catholic" to
describe him as I tried to impress on the Vatican the danger facing the
Catholic Church in Zimbabwe from the proximity of certain members of the
hierarchy to the presidency. That danger is now realised in Zimbabwe, and
the Church suffers grievously as a result. I understand that the Mugabe
government has even approached the Vatican to request the retirement of
Archbishop Ncube. If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, it
emphasises the government's fear of the truth. All the governments of
Zimbabwe for the past four decades feared that truth, but none to the extent
of the present regime. The world view on corruption and crimes against
humanity has become more focused than in the past, inspiring fear in the
ruling Zanu PF party and its leadership. But the people of Zimbabwe, who can
see the evil all around them, are confused that only one Catholic voice is
raised and, in a country where the majority have access only to the medium
of the government-controlled radio, that voice is not heard. One of the
local independent weeklies in Zimbabwe recently recalled that in the past it
was the Catholic bishops, Lamont and Karlen, who were "in the forefront for
the push for democratic change." : Lamont during he liberation struggle and
Karlen, who was the Bishop (later Archbishop) of Bulawayo, during the
Matabeleland terror in the early 80s. That could explain the militancy of
the present government against the Archbishop of Bulawayo, the newspaper
thought. It regretted that Archbishop Ncube was being left to wage a "sole
crusade" for democratic rule, respect for human rights and depoliticisation
of food aid. Yet some of his colleagues in the episcopacy were apparently
"of the firm belief that all is well in the country", the newspaper
remarked. "Many people would not be ready to forgive" the isolated position
of Archbishop Ncube, it concluded.

The current situation in the country has been well described in the latest
report from the Physicians for Human Rights. This Danish group has
previously highlighted the physical torture carried out by the government on
its enemies. This new report also carries harrowing reports of torture, but
focuses on the use of food as a political weapon. This, it states, if "the
most serious and widespread human rights violation in Zimbabwe at this
time." The report quotes Didimus Mutasa, a senior member of Zanu PF and
formerly the respected colleague of Guy Clutton-Brock, who must be turning
in his grave (a national celebrity during the struggle for independence, he
is buried at Heroes' Acre). Mutasa says: "We would be better off with only
six million people, with our own people who support the liberation struggle.
We don't want all these extra people." The population of Zimbabwe stands at
13 million: such a comment clearly indicates the attitude of the government
towards the people it rules, a party which claims ad nauseam that it brought
human rights to the nation. The report is amply illustrated with case
studies and photographs, and vindicates Archbishop Ncube's assertion that
people are starving in his diocese. It is true, of course, that a very large
number of Zimbabweans have Aids, which inflates the figures when they
succumb to the disease; but many of the deaths are premature because the
sufferers are starving. Zanu PF blames Aids for deaths that should be
ascribed to hunger.

There are many extraordinarily courageous people in Zimbabwe, trying
desperately to assist the poor. But in the face of a government determined
to hold on to power, charitable work is extremely difficult, and many lives
will be lost unnecessarily. Many thousands of citizens have been forced to
seek refugee status in other countries, notably Britain and South Africa;
many hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs; the churches are
prevented from looking after the hungry; many who are HIV-positive will die
prematurely from starvation. Evil is manifest in Zimbabwe today.
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Washington Times

EDITORIAL . December 29, 2002

Zimbabwe's pain

     The government of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is confiscating land,
setting prices on almost all goods and prohibiting the public "denigration"
of Mr. Mugabe. Mr. Mugabe's wrong-headed (and hate-driven) policies have put
Zimbabwe on a death spiral that is gaining momentum. Famine has become the
norm in Zimbabwe - once the bread-basket of southern Africa. The U.N. Food
Program estimates that 6.7 million of Zimbabwe's 12 million people are at
risk of starvation. Unemployment is at 70 percent and there is a chronic
shortage of most goods.
     As catastrophic as the situation in Zimbabwe currently is, it could
become worse. As part of an effort to bolster his sparse support, Mr. Mugabe
is bringing racial divisiveness to dangerous levels. In the world according
to Mr. Mugabe, good and bad is represented in black and white. And if a
black Zimbabwean steps out of line with Mr. Mugabe's despotic wishes, he
becomes intrinsically "white" and therefore an enemy of the people. At a
recent speech at a committee meeting for his own party, known as ZANU-PF,
Mr. Mugabe lashed out at merchants who don't follow his mandatory price
schemes, which are often set at way below costs. "While many manufacturers
and traders want to blame it on production costs, it is clear the consumer
is being ripped off, abused and taken advantage of by avaricious, heartless
business people, several of whom would want to politicize production
processes in sympathy with white landed interests," he said.
     In Zimbabwe, one form of officially sanctioned racism is getting
replaced with another. Although Mr. Mugabe was once widely admired for his
successful drive to rid the country of apartheid rule, his popularity has
plummeted as his drive for racial revenge has brought ruin on Zimbabwe.
Since the sole purpose of Mr. Mugabe's "land-reform" program has been to
expropriate the land of whites, it is unsurprising the policy has resulted
in a food crisis. The best lands have been doled out to Mr. Mugabe's
relatives and cronies, and the poor recipients of other lands have been
given no assistance or training in operating the country's highly mechanized
farms. Although some sort of land redistribution would have been appropriate
for Zimbabwe given the country's past of racial repression, Mr. Mugabe's
land grabs have been so destructively clumsy as to verge on nihilism.
     African countries, including Ghana, Botswana and Mozambique have
harshly rebuked Mr. Mugabe and his thuggish policies. But the region's power
broker, South Africa, has refused to criticize Zimbabwe's
president-by-fraud. For the sake of the Zimbabwean people and regional
stability, South Africa must press Mr. Mugabe both publicly and privately to
begin adopting more reasonable policies. If Zimbabwe's leader continues on
his current tract, the people will suffer unestimable hardship.
     Next year, President Bush will be visiting South Africa and three other
African nations. Mr. Bush has set a constructive agenda for his Africa trip,
supporting the very initiatives the continent urgently needs to avert a
widening food and AIDs crisis. Mr. Bush's trip is expected to reinvigorate
support for the region's New Partnership for Africa's Development, a plan to
tie aid to democratic and other types of reform. Earlier this year, Mr. Bush
earmarked $5 billion a year in aid for those countries making progress in
these areas. He will also promote wider access for Africa to rich markets
around the world.
     During his trip, Mr. Bush will surely discuss the situation in Zimbabwe
with South African President Thabo Mbeki. The famine in Zimbabwe is causing
a chaotic refugee crisis that could make it more difficult for South Africa
to counter human trafficking and potential terrorism. The crisis that Mr.
Mugabe has created in Zimbabwe could have a wider geopolitical impact if it
isn't brought under control soon.
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Sunday, 29 December, 2002, 17:36 GMT
Eyewitness: Behind Africa's famine
Child in Zambia
Millions of Africans face severe food shortages
The BBC's Alastair Leithead travels through southern Africa to discover why the region is in the grip of a potentially devastating famine.

There are a mixture of strange and conflicting emotions associated with witnessing and reporting on a humanitarian crisis like that currently unfolding across southern Africa.

My first, surprisingly, were cynicism and doubt.

It was pitiful watching the old woman thinly slice a bowl of roots and barbs, dug up to fill the stomachs of the hungry

How could these people possibly be short of food when the land was so green, the rain so heavy, Lake Kariba in Zambia so big?

Was this just aid agencies justifying their own existence by over-emphasising poverty and dressing it up in the clothes of famine - were they simply courting the media and using us to legitimise their business plan?

And was it not in the African governments' best interests to play along and watch rich countries pay for their social welfare?

But like the plough turning over last year's failed crops, you must cut through the surface and peer beneath, to uncover the true scale of this disaster.

Vital aid

People are not dying of hunger, but people are at the stage where they would die if the truck and train loads of aid were not being distributed to those most in need.

The harvest is due in March at the very earliest, May for most, but the small round grass-topped mud huts sitting on stilts that keep the village maize reserves good between harvests are empty - there is nothing to eat.

It was pitiful watching the old woman thinly slice a bowl of roots and barbs, dug up to fill the stomachs of the hungry.

Eight hours of boiling removes the toxins, but also the nutrients - they are merely stomach packing to take your mind off eating until tomorrow.

Bleak Christmas

It was an unusual Christmas morning, arriving in the village of Monjo in Malawi.

Barren maize field
Maize cannot be harvested for months

The jeeps turned into a little settlement of a hundred mud houses and the children came running - as delighted to see us as they would have been to see their Santa Claus, bringing them the maize and the protein that would stop their little bodies being blown up like balloons and turning them fat from hunger.

Their singing was spontaneous and enthusiastic, the music a fabulous grinning chorus of harmonies.

But the meaning of the words sent a shiver.

This was no Christmas song: "Hunger is all over the country," they sang, "hunger is all over the village, hunger has surrounded all the households", and, "This is the modern hunger, how can we eat?"

The chief was grateful for the food sacks supplied by the aid agencies who had taken us to the village, but he kept talking about a bore-hole, and that when he had that he could irrigate some of the fields and keep the maize growing even if the rains failed.

And that, of course, is the key to tackling this crisis - the aid is a stop-gap to prevent people from dying, but a long term solution is the way forward.

Countries in crisis

Rushing from country to country and spending only a couple of days in each, was a challenge simply to find out the truth under the surface as quickly as possible.

But on reflection, a picture emerges of this hunger in southern Africa.

Zambian woman holding roots and barbs
Only long-term planning can prevent future famines

It is a new kind of famine, the landscape may be lush, but poverty runs deep, and HIV/Aids has robbed communities of the coping strategies that have brought them through drought before.

And each country has its own individual crisis - its own explanation for why it has not been able to cope.

In Zambia, the delayed dispatch of food aid as genetically modified maize had to be removed from the silos, in front of the hungry people, and replaced by non-GM food.

In Zimbabwe, the political crisis playing out through economic collapse and evidence of aid being targeted away from pro-opposition areas.

In Malawi, the selling off of the country's grain reserves just before the drought, the money unaccounted for, the IMF and World Bank accused of giving bad advice and making things worse.

In Lesotho, where 31% of adults are HIV positive, an increasing number of orphans pressure the traditional family group and the whole structure of society is being remoulded.

Unfortunately, my initial cynicism on the famine was unfounded - there is real tragedy here, and while food aid patches it up and keeps people alive, long term planning - irrigation, development and poverty reduction - are the only ways to prevent this from repeating itself every time the rains fail.

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Dear Family and Friends,
Two days after the most frugal Christmas I can ever remember, I was taken out and treated to an early birthday lunch at a beautiful garden restaurant in my home town. The gardens at this time of the year are superb, the lawns are thick, lush and impeccably trimmed. The numerous rose bushes are crowded with glorious colours and we sat under a majestic and towering  paperbark acacia tree. The sky was endlessly blue and it was the most beautiful day and only the faint smell of smoke in the air hinted that perhaps everything was not quite as perfect and normal as it seemed. We were served by an ever smiling and cheerful waiter who left us until we'd half finished our gins before he presented us with the menu. He waited politely as we mulled over the leather bound and gold edged menu which boasted three pages of mouth watering possibilities  ranging from Inyanga trout and prawns to  gammon or fillet steaks smothered in pepper, mushroom or garlic sauce. It was time to order and although we couldn't afford anything exotic from the menu, we put forward our requests. Sadly the waiter just shook his head and said he was unable to supply any of the things we asked for. We thought again but even a chicken pie was not a possibility so we asked the waiter to tell us exactly which of the 50 odd possibilities on the menu, the kitchen could provide. He told us that there was no gas to run their stoves so we could only have what could be cooked on the open fire they had burning outside the kitchen door. Another gin and a long wait for a smoky hamburger ended the perfect outing in which yet again I was reminded how everything about life in Zimbabwe has a veneer about it. On the surface everything looks so absolutely normal and yet in reality it is falling apart.
This veneer of normalcy is everywhere. A friend sat in a petrol queue on Christmas Eve and watched as a flashy green BMW, driven by a large, well dressed and over weight politician pulled up. Not prepared to get in line like everyone else the green BMW waited for the right moment and then pushed in to the front of the queue. The petrol attendant was offered something and the green car was filled up before the hundreds of others who had been waiting for many hours. The driver of the BMW got out and turned to the angry onlookers. He clenched his fist, raised his arm above his head and shouted: "Pamberi Zanu PF" (Forward with Zanu PF) No one said a word. The driver of the green car raised his arm again, "Pamberi Robert Mugabe" he bellowed - again no one said a word or made a move. The man got back into his newly filled car and drove away as if nothing had happened. For now people are getting away with this disgusting stone age behaviour but under the surface of what appeared an apathetic crowd, there is a growing anger and resentment which most of us feel sure will come to some sort of an end in 2003. We hope and pray it does and that the New Year brings the changes that Zimbabwe so desperately needs if we are going to save the lives of more than half of our population now at real risk of starvation. Until next week, with love, cathy Copyright Cathy Buckle 28 Dec. 2002
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From The Observer (UK), 29 December

Kenya sweeps corrupt ruler out of power

Opposition hails 'fantastic victory' after peaceful election

James Astill in Nairobi

Kenyans revelled in a day few dared to dream of in four decades, as the preliminary results yesterday from Friday's elections suggested a landslide victory for the opposition, sweeping away many crooks and cronies of a ruling party that has terrorised and impoverished them since independence. With about a fifth of the poll already counted last night, Mwai Kibaki, a veteran opposition leader and former Vice-President, had won around 70 per cent of the votes. Uhuru Kenyatta, the candidate of the outgoing President Daniel arap Moi's Kanu party and son of Jomo, Kenya's founding father, had won less than 30 per cent, offering Kenya the chance of one of the most peaceful and democratic transitions from 'Big Man' rule in history. 'We are cruising to a fantastic and historic victory,' said Kijana Wamalwa, a key member of Kibaki's National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). 'The mood here is very sombre,' said an official at Nairobi's State House, the centre of a kleptocracy which has forced some 60 per cent of Kenyans into wretched poverty.

Fearing a repeat of the violence that claimed thousands of lives before previous elections, Nairobeans barely ventured out over Christmas, except to vote. But as radio stations broadcast the unofficial results from polling stations around the country, small, disbelieving crowds emerged. 'No violence and no more Kanu, no more Moi - it's too much, a gift from God,' said Josiah Owade, one of a group of youths hunkered round a radio. After 24 years of misrule, Moi was constitutionally obliged to step aside. Yet many Kenyans feared that he planned to rule on through Kenyatta. 'Choosing Kenyatta was all about self-preservation for the old man and his family,' said one diplomat in Nairobi yesterday. 'But the trick hasn't paid off, because Kenyans wouldn't be fooled.' Even more remarkably in a country where every vote has traditionally had its price, many of Moi's most notorious cronies lost their seats. They include Vice-President Musalia Mudavadi; Justice Minister Julius Sunkuli; Moi's crony-in-chief Shariff Nassir; and John Haroun Mwau, a Kanu vice-chairman. 'This is a glorious day for Kenya,' said John Githongo of Transparency International, the watchdog which ranks Kenya among the world's most corrupt nations. 'All the evidence suggest Kenyans have taken bribes across the country, and then voted with their consciences.' At a military parade yesterday morning to mark his passing, Moi shrugged off the first results. 'That's democracy,' he said. 'As long as Kenyans are united, I am satisfied.' At the time, Moi's thuggish son Gideon - one of the most feared men in Kenya and Kenyatta's likely choice as Prime Minister - represented Kanu's only victory. He stood unopposed after opposition candidates mysteriously withdrew. NARC's likely victory took on added significance in western Kenya where the sun wore a halo on Friday. Meteorologists said the phenomenon was caused by light refracting through ice. But the Luo tribe, one of Kenya's poorest, celebrated it as propitious and more than 90 per cent of them voted for NARC.

As Kenya's likely new government, NARC looks only fairly auspicious. It was formed when many of Moi's leading cronies deserted Kanu, after being passed over for Kenyatta. United only by hatred of Moi, it has no ideology, no concrete policies and could crumble over the division of spoils. With many of Kanu's most violent politicians now in NARC, Kenyans have been spared the politically stirred tribal clashes that claimed more than 3,000 lives before two previous elections. On polling day, the threat of rioting lurked in Nairobi's slums, where NARC's candidate - and likely Prime Minister - Raila Odinga claimed two million voters had been disenfranchised (though NARC had insisted on the regulation that caused this), and threatened to lead a million-man march on State House. But NARC's campaign was better characterised by Kibaki, virtually bedbound for the past three weeks after a car crash. On Friday, the man who promises he will 'Save Kenya' was so frail he had to cast his vote from the back of his Mercedes. NARC's campaign was mostly peaceful, disjointed and lethargic, counting entirely on the poor's desperation for change. Indeed it was they - and not Kibaki's slick London PR consultants - who supplied NARC's real slogan: 'Unbwoggable' - the made-up title of a hit pop song, meaning 'unstoppable'. NARC also boasts Kanu's most accomplished thieves, so Kibaki's promise to fight corruption rings hollow. Yet NARC is also introducing a handful of distinguished activists to politics - notably Wangari Maathai, a celebrated environmentalist - and, most importantly, since Moi began constructing his patronage network Kenya has changed. High rates of literacy and an energetic press are closing many of the tribal divisions Moi abused to divide opposition. The Western donors who allowed Moi's cronies to steal their loans during the Cold War demand change too. Kenya's aid was frozen four years ago because of the corruption. If Kibaki wants the half billion pounds pending to restart Kenya's shrinking economy, he will need to offer stiff guarantees. Already he has promised to pass two anti-corruption Bills. One ensures that all politicians declare their wealth.

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