|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Economy of Zimbabwe slowly bleeding to deathZimbabwe, a nation whose promise has turned to nightmare, is writhing in the throes of a state-sponsored terrorism its 77-year-old president, Robert Mugabe, calls the "Third Chimurenga."
Chimurenga is the Shona word for revolution.
The first occurred in 1896, when blacks revolted against British colonial rule. The second was the guerrilla war fought by Mugabe against the white Rhodesian regime that preceded independence in 1980.
The third is a concerted, and unabashedly racist, assault on everything white -- not only Zimbabwe's 60,000 white citizens, but foreign-owned businesses, charities, hospitals, dentists, orphanages and embassies -- all of whom Mugabe blames for creating political opposition.
The president is convinced that without whites there would be no Movement for Democratic Change, which nearly beat his ruling ZANU-PF party in parliamentary elections last year and now threatens his bid for another six-year term in presidential elections early next year.
He ignores the fact that most MDC members are black.
Mugabe's shock troops are self-styled "war veterans," many too young to have fought in Zimbabwe's independence war led by Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi. They began running amok in the run-up to last year's parliamentary elections, invading white-owned farms, intimidating black MDC candidates and killing 31 people in the process.
Although Zimbabwe's Supreme Court ruled the farm invasions illegal, the government has ignored six court orders to evict the squatters. They now occupy 1,700 farms, buoyed by Mugabe's promise to seize 3,400 of the country's 4,500 white-owned farms for landless blacks.
Besides farms, the government is expropriating game parks and tourist resorts, further denting an industry hard hit by cancellations. Scenic wonders such as the Victoria Falls and premier national parks such as Wankie and Gonarezhou drew 2 1/2 million visitors last year, but hotels are 70 percent vacant because the pervasive climate of violence is scaring tourists away.
Only tobacco and mining are more important to Zimbabwe's economy than tourism, and both are in tatters. Mine invasions have shut down many of Zimbabwe's top foreign exchange earners. Tobacco exports are down. Food is short because grain planting was disrupted by the farm seizures and 700,000 black farm workers have lost their jobs.
Now "Hitler" and his "veterans" are invading urban businesses, raiding 200 in recent weeks. They have destroyed equipment, threatened employees, extorted money from the owners and forced many firms to shut down, adding to Zimbabwe's high unemployment rate, which reached 60 percent last year.
Britain, South Africa, Germany and Denmark have protested the harassment of their business people. Canada has slapped sanctions on Zimbabwe. And Mugabe's minister of industry and international trade has resigned in disgust.
A respected technocrat and businessman, Nkosana Moyo was brought into the Cabinet last July to help the country out of a three-year recession marked by rampant unemployment and fuel shortages. But he quit last week, saying the raids are "having a negative impact on how we are perceived as a nation beyond our borders."
Zimbabwe's nine Roman Catholic bishops have also condemned Mugabe, himself a Catholic, saying he lost the moral right to govern by permitting violence and lawlessness for political gain. "There is no other sanction we can give him except the sanction of Hell," said Bishop Patrick Mutume, head of the Commission for Justice and Peace.
But Mugabe is unfazed. Not content with scaring off business and foreign investment, he has turned on the country's last lifeline: foreign aid groups and charities. CARE, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the British Council and SOS Kinderdorf, a German children's charity, have all shut down because of threats.
David Coltart, an opposition member of Parliament who recently visited Washington to appeal for help, says Western governments are making a serious mistake if they think it can't get any worse.
"It can and it will," he warns, because Mugabe's ruling party has vowed to get him re-elected "at any cost" -- including, perhaps, the expulsion of all whites and destruction of the entire economy.
Holger Jensen is international editor. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 17, 2001
BAKERS say they will increase the wholesale price of bread by between 3 and 6 percent next week due to increases in the price of flour, which is the major input in bread production.
Bakers also increased the price of bread on 15 May by between 8 and 12 percent.
The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) executive director, Elizabeth
Nerwande criticised the increases, saying bakers were capitalising on the liberalisation of the market to hike prices every month.
The current wholesale price of a standard loaf of bread excluding adjustments on the latest increases, range between $20 to $33,50, depending on bakery and quality.
While bakers said they would adjust their prices next week, a survey done in Harare on Monday showed that some retailers had increased their retail prices.
The retail price of a loaf of bread now ranges between $25,80 and $38,00 depending on the retailer and quality of the bread.
National Bakers’ Association of Zimbabwe chairman, Mark Prior said, bakers did not control the retail prices but the margin required by retailers should range between 5 and 25 percent.
Prior said: “The price of bread is dependent on the cost increases in input materials. Since 1 June, 2001, flour, fats, sugar, yeast and packaging were increased by 5, 32, 9.5, 5 and 9 percent respectively.
“These do not include increases arising from foreign currency shortages in relation to spares, oils and imported ingredients.”
Millers said they were increasing the price of flour every month as they were procuring foreign currency at rates of more that $139 against the Zimbabwe dollar.
An official from the milling industry said they were paying about $30 600 a tonne to import gristing wheat while they needed only $21 500 a tonne to purchase local wheat.
The official said while they were paying $30 600 for gristing wheat, millers were selling a tonne of flour for $29 804.
“We will continue increasing the price of flour until such a time when we start to break-even,” the official said. Nerwande said the increase on prices of bread on a monthly basis had a serious socio-economic repercussions on consumers whose incomes had deteriorated over the years. She said many consumers were no longer buying bread because they could not afford it.
In surveys done by CCZ in Harare, consumers were substituting bread with staple sadza and sweet potatoes in the morning.
Nerwande said: “The CCZ is urging the government and stakeholders to speed up the implementation of a price monitoring mechanism to ascertain the justification of increases on basic commodities.”
The chaos, excess and deprivation in Zimbabwe today has turned our beloved land into a tableau of catastrophe. Zimbabwe is desperately in need of political leaders who fear God.
HARARE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) -- Zimbabwe hopes a solar eclipse this week will help revive an ailing tourism industry hit in the past year by the country's political crisis.
Travel agents said hundreds of tourists, mostly from Europe, had flocked to the country in the past week ahead of the eclipse on June 21, the first of this millennium.
Northeast Zimbabwe, home to the spectacular Mana Pools resort, will experience a total eclipse of the sun on June 21 while in most other parts of the country at least 85 percent of the sun will be in shadow.
Leslie Gwindi, who heads a committee promoting the eclipse to tourists, said most of Zimbabwe's hotels, especially in the northeast, were already fully booked at the weekend.
This is good news for a tourism industry struggling to survive a decline in arrivals after the political violence that marked parliamentary elections last year and the government-sanctioned invasion of white farms by war veterans.
Industry officials estimate that Zimbabwe's tourism receipts fell by one-third to U.S.$100 million last year from $150 million in 1999.
"The eclipse gives us an opportunity to re-market Zimbabwe as a safe international tourism destination and everyone that comes here is going to be an ambassador for the country afterwards," Gwindi told Reuters.
Tourism Minister Francis Nhema said police would be deployed in northeastern Zimbabwe to ensure visitors' safety.
"We have worked tirelessly to ensure that Zimbabweans and all our guests will enjoy this wonderful experience here," he said.
On Sunday the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) promised there would be enough fuel in cities and along highways to eclipse zones.
"There will be extra supplies of fuel commencing Monday in all major urban centres around the country and all routes leading to the areas of the total solar eclipse," ZTA said in a statement.
The southern African country, in its third year of economic recession, has suffered an acute shortage of fuel since late 1999 after state oil procurer NOCZIM's credit lines were severed over a debt that has ballooned to Z$18 billion ($327 million).
Zimbabwe also hopes the influx of tourists will inject much needed foreign currency, which has been in critically short supply for the past two years and is partly responsible for the fuel squeeze.
The eclipse will also be seen in Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola and Madagascar.
|17/06/2001 14:23 - (SA)|
According to a join United Nations Children's Fund and UN Development Programme progress report on Zimbabwe, released this week, HIV-related illnesses will knock 15 to 20 years off life expectancy of the country's 12 million population and leave over a million children orphaned in four years.
The report says Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of HIV and Aids infections in the world with at least 25% of the adult population infected with HIV. It also warned of rising infection rates if no concrete measures were taken.
An estimated 600 000 children have lost at least one parent to Aids, while it is projected that a third of those under 15 will succumb to the disease within 10 years.
"The numbers show a worsening of the HIV/Aids epidemic in terms of increased illness, deaths and population loss and we're not even at the peak of the deaths," reads part of the report prepared for the UN General Assembly's special session on HIV/Aids that will run form June 25 to 27.
"We've had wars before, and a great number of people have died in those wars, but it hasn't had the impact on average life expectancy that we observe in some of the countries hardest-hit by HIV/Aids."
But Deputy Health Minister David Parirenyatwa disputed the UN projection, saying the figures were an exaggeration based on ignorance of what Zimbabwe was doing, The Sunday Times said.
He said his ministry was intensifying efforts to reduce the rate of infection in the country, particularly mother-to-child transmission.
Zimbabwe's health ministry estimates that 2000 people die from HIV-related illnesses every week, leaving the country with a nil population growth rate.
HARARE: Media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have protested against new restrictions introduced by the Zimbabwe government this week for accrediting foreign journalists and asked it to reverse them.
On Wednesday, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government enacted new controls on foreign reporters, requiring them to apply for accreditation a month in advance of travelling to the country.
Previously, foreign journalists were allowed to apply for credentials on their arrival. "In keeping with international practice, the department of information ... reminds foreign media personnel who intend to visit Zimbabwe on media assignments that they are expected, and indeed required to apply for accreditation from their countries of permanent station," a statement from the information ministry said.
RSF said the new measures were aimed at controlling information inside and outside Zimbabwe's borders.
"RSF asked the minister (of information) to cancel these measures and allow foreign correspondents to work freely throughout the country," the media watchdog said in a statement released here.
"The authorities try to control information inside and outside the country by any means," said RSF secretary general Robert Menard.
Menard said the restrictions follow allegations by the media of government corruption and lawlessness.
The government also said it would not accept applications by foreign correspondents already in the country. The journalists would have to leave Zimbabwe and reapply for accreditation from their own countries.
The US State Department slammed the restrictions.
"We find this new development particularly troubling in view of the presidential election slated to occur in the first quarter of next year," said US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker.
"It appears that the government of Zimbabwe wants very much to limit media reporting on what goes on inside Zimbabwe," Reeker said. (AFP)
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) resolved to close down every pillar of the economy if its demand is not met within a fortnight. Its 400,000 members intend that factories will fall silent, shops will close and public transport will be halted. It will be a crucial challenge to Mr Mugabe's authority. Observers predict a draconian response.
An overnight rise of 74 per cent in the price of petrol, from £2.61 a gallon to £4.67, has led to the action. This has caused a 50 per cent rise in bus fares at a time when Harare and Bulawayo, which have suffered most from Zimbabwe's economic collapse, are already simmering with anger.
Collin Gwiyo, the acting secretary-general of the ZCTU, said: "People are dejected. They are very angry because the increases have come when they are already coping with numerous hardships. That is why a national protest will be necessary if the government fails to listen."
A 20 per cent rise in petrol prices led to three days of rioting in Harare last October, during which troops were deployed, police made hundreds of arrests and a child was killed by tear gas. Mr Gwiyo has warned the government privately about the danger of a popular backlash. In a letter to Simba Makoni, the Finance Minister, written on June 14 and seen by The Telegraph, Mr Gwiyo described the fuel price rise as a "shock announcement".
He wrote: "Trade unions on behalf of struggling workers cannot accept this insensitive decision, given the explosive and tense atmosphere in light of the already eroded purchasing power and the ripple effects of fuel increases and the looming reality of spontaneous demonstrations."
Bus transport has become unaffordable even for the fortunate minority with jobs. A manual worker living in the dormitory town of Chitungwiza, 15 miles south of the capital, will typically earn £40 per month from a factory job in Harare. The cost of commuting by bus now consumes more than half of his wages. So thousands are rising at 4am each day and walking the 30-mile round trip.
A leading trade unionist said: "If there is no action by us, rest assured that people will take action themselves. The level of anger cannot be overemphasised. It is explosive . . . One way or the other, there's going to be unrest."
Mr Mugabe will blame the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for any strike and a fierce crackdown will follow rapidly. Troops are likely to be deployed in the townships and striking workers will be forced back to their jobs. The so-called "war veterans", shock troops of the regime, could be used for the same purpose.
The central question is whether this will provoke yet more public anger that might become uncontrollable. John Makumbe, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, said: "People will want to put the war vets in their place. In the townships, the war vets are heavily outnumbered. We could see a total collapse more quickly than we thought. There is seething anger in all circles in Harare."
Mr Mugabe faces this crisis gravely weakened by the sudden loss of three leading supporters. During the past seven weeks, car crashes have claimed the lives of Border Gezi, 37, the Employment Minister, and Moven Mahachi, 52, the Defence Minister. Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, 51, the leader of the War Veterans Association, died in a Harare hospital a fortnight ago.
At a stroke, the President has lost his Praetorian Guard. The hammer blows came from the losses of Mr Gezi and Mr Hunzvi, two of the most feared men in Zimbabwe. Both organised the invasion of 1,700 white-owned farms last year and masterminded the violent onslaught against the MDC before the parliamentary elections last June.
Dr Makumbe doubts that Zanu (PF), the ruling party, can suppress popular unrest. "You are looking at a shattered party. It watches itself breaking up. It is a destitute party. They are all asking, 'What has hit us?' They don't know which way to turn."
US says no aid for time being
War vets question Hunzvi family over property
ZCTU DECIDES ON STAYAWAY—•Dates set for fuel increase protest
From The Daily News, 16 June
Chinotimba now turns to Bulawayo
Bulawayo - Joseph Chinotimba, the leader of the militant war veterans yesterday arrived in Bulawayo to spearhead the Zanu PF campaign for the Bulawayo mayoral election. The dates for the election are to be announced soon following a High Court order compelling the government to hold them. "This election is crucial for the party and we take the election seriously," said Chinotimba. "But as you might be aware, there is no way Zanu PF can lose this election because we are very popular with the people."
The MDC last Wednesday won a High Court order compelling the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa and the Registrar-General, Tobaiwa Mudede to immediately announce the nomination and election dates of the council elections in Bulawayo. Chinamasa had unlawfully postponed the elections last week. He was given 10 days to show cause why he should not personally meet the costs involved in the rescheduling and advertising of the mayoral election and elections in seven wards which are vacant.
Chinotimba, has a pending court case over allegations that he shot a Glen Norah woman, Anna Maria Maenzanise last year. Chinotimba, who since the beginning of this week, leads the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions, a splinter workers’ representative body to the ZCTU, said he was also in Bulawayo to solve the problems of workers in the city. It was not immediately clear yesterday afternoon which companies the war veterans were targeting but two cash-strapped parastatals, the National Railways of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company have been on a "hit list" of the war veterans. Chinotimba invaded several companies in the capital city before Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo stepped in to stop the practice.
Earlier this year, Chinotimba, the late Border Gezi and the late Chenjerai Hunzvi were in Bikita West to spearhead Zanu PF’s parliamentary by-election campaign. The election was won by Zanu PF amid reports of intimidation and violence. Chinotimba later accompanied Hunzvi to Masvingo to campaign for the mayoral election. That election was won by the opposition MDC by a wide margin. Zanu PF has challenged the result.
From The Sunday Times (UK), 17 June
Mbeki in secret talks with opposition party
Johannesburg - President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has held secret talks with senior officials from Zimbabwe's opposition MDC. Details emerged this weekend as Zimbabwe braced itself for social upheaval caused by the government's decision last week to raise fuel prices by 74%. Mbeki met Welshman Ncube, the MDC's secretary-general, and Gibson Sibanda, its deputy leader, in April. He is said to have promised to tell Zimbabwe's beleaguered President Robert Mugabe that any attempt to cling to power by violent means would not be tolerated. In return, the MDC agreed to desist from criticising Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy", which has been condemned at home and abroad for effectively lending support to Mugabe. The MDC and Colin Powell, the American secretary of state, who took a tough stand against Mugabe's "totalitarian methods" on his visit to South Africa three weeks ago, believe the Zimbabwean leader could not have survived for as long as he has without Mbeki.
The South African president turned a blind eye last year when Mugabe launched a campaign of violence and intimidation in which thousands were tortured, raped and beaten, and more than 30 killed, to ensure that his Zanu PF party won the parliamentary elections. Mbeki also put pressure on other surrounding states to do the same, rammed a resolution through his cabinet declaring the Zimbabwean elections to have been free and fair and repeatedly appeared in public holding hands with Mugabe to emphasise his legitimacy. Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, felt betrayed, and said so.
With presidential elections due by March 2002, there has been concern that Mbeki could do the same again, allowing Mugabe to bludgeon his way back to another five-year term. With the administration of George W Bush making it clear that it sees Zimbabwe as a test case for democracy and good governance in Africa, pressure has increased on the South African leader to change tack. After his talks with the MDC, Mbeki was expected to see Mugabe during last month's summit of the Group of Fifteen developing nations in Jakarta. However, Mbeki did not go to the summit. It now seems likely that he will visit Bush later this month without having had the promised meeting with Mugabe. Tsvangirai will also be in America, but the two men are not expected to meet.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has meanwhile announced that it will launch a general strike aimed at forcing Mugabe to rescind the huge fuel price increase. It means there is now a serious prospect of civil disorder in Harare. Not only will the fuel hike add to inflation - already running at 70% - but with eight out of 10 of the population below the poverty line, it will also exert unbearable pressure on household budgets. "It's only a matter of time before Zimbabwe begins to burn," said John Makumbe, a leading academic commentator.
A maize and wheat shortage is predicted for December and Mugabe faces the prospect of running for re-election amid growing famine. Many observers suspect he may have concluded the election is unwinnable and must be called off. "Mugabe seems to be interested in provoking people to go onto the streets as a way of creating a riotous situation," said Peter Ndoro, an opposition activist. "Then his government will have an excuse to declare a state of emergency, dissolve parliament, abandon the presidential election and rule by decree."
Letter from The Daily News, 16 June
Politburo unanimously suspends eclipse
Lovemore Makunike, Mount Pleasant, Harare
The Politburo has unanimously voted to postpone the eclipse to allow a task force to be chaired by a well-known professor to prepare an action plan on how the country and party can benefit from this event. The unanimity being displayed by the Politburo since the departure of a British sponsored lawyer from this august body has hitherto been known only in revolutionary countries like Cuba, Libya and Iraq.
According to a source close to the meeting there was fear that the British would use the temporary darkness created by the eclipse to infiltrate into the country reactionary elements opposed to the fast-track activities. It is suspected the British were also involved in extraterrestrial activities to move the eclipse further north so as to deprive us of the much needed foreign currency. A senior politburo member of the baboon gaffe - has suggested that the eclipse be moved to the centre of the country with the most visible sight being from the party headquarters. A team of veterans at the headquarters will collect the much needed foreign currency from the tourists. Instead of having it on a single day, he has suggested that we have it for one week.
To ensure that the eclipse can only be viewed from this country, he has further suggested that kilometres of textiles be put along the country's borders to make it a strictly "pay per view" business. According to a senior broadcast journalist, intelligence officers should be deployed at all the entry points to ensure that all those coming to see this spectacle are bona fide visitors, not impostors trying to expose us. A delegation from the newly formed task force has been sent to Malaysia to study how they would deal with such an event.
"Once more," said the spokesman, "we have been able to show the world that our country is always a step ahead of the world." Said a village technocrat recently added to the Cabinet, "We will wipe out our debt arrears of US$600 million (about $33 billion) and start on a recovery course." The new date for the eclipse will be announced by The Professor at an international media event to be hosted in the country. It is envisaged that after this event petrol queues will be a thing of the past.
From South Scan, 17 June
UN Optimism on Peace Moves Contrasts With the Facts
Brussels - The optimism shown by the French chairman of the UN Security Council, Jean-David Levitte, at the end of the Lusaka talks on May 22 to review progress in the DR Congo's peace process, was not shared by all participants. The phases of the plan, agreed on in February, included a 15km withdrawal from the frontline by all parties. Since he was the only one not to have executed it, Jean-Pierre Bemba's Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops were urged to pull out from Befale, Bolomba and Emite on the Equator front, on June 1.
The next step should be the regrouping of the foreign armies in a number of points by June 22. A preparatory meeting for the inter-Congolese dialogue is supposed to take place on July 16. Eventually, the foreign troops are supposed to have left the country by August 22. The final communiqué of the May 22 Lusaka meeting between the UN Security Council and the Political Committee grouping the signatories of the Lusaka peace accord, also called for the demilitarisation of Kisangani. In addition, it was agreed that all parties who had not done so, should submit as soon as possible, information on the numbers, the locations and the armaments of the 'negative forces' which must be disarmed under the peace plan. These are the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces (RAF), the Rwandan Hutu Interahamwe militias, the Burundian Hutu rebel Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD), Unita and the Ugandan rebel movements.
Yet, even if the Security Council admitted that progress were made in the implementation of the agreement, a number of problems still need to be resolved. The UN SC urged all foreign armies to notify it of their withdrawal agenda. Curiously enough, when that matter was broached in Lusaka by the UK permanent representative at the UN the representatives of all foreign powers in the DRC (Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe) suddenly seemed to have become "amnesiac", a Congolese delegate told SouthScan. None could remember about any commitment in connection with the agreed deadline of August 22.
Then the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (CRD) accused the Kinshasa government of having blocked any progress on the issue of the disarmament of the "negative forces", in other words, the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces (RAF), the Rwandan Hutu Interahamwe militias, the Burundian Hutu rebel Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD), Unita and the Ugandan rebel movements. The Kinshasa government failed to present a detailed plan for disarmament, the CRD's spokesman, Tryphon Kin Kiey Mulumba, complained. Moreover, at a press conference held in Brussels on May 27, the Congolese foreign minister, Leonard She Okitundu, denied that the disarmament of these groups should take place before the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the DRC scheduled for the August 22, although the Lusaka agreement clearly stipulates that such disarmament has to be undertaken by the parties (in other words all the regular armies in the territory under their control) beforehand.
This has been only one of the stumbling blocks. Another is the organisation and the timing of the inter-Congolese dialogue between the DRC government, the Congolese rebels, the non-armed opposition and the civil society to set up the rules for the transition to a democratic regime. According to the initial timetable, the withdrawal of foreign troops comes only after the conclusion of such dialogue. Therefore, the August 22 deadline is likely to be a bone of contention, since the only arrangement so far is a preparatory meeting around the dialogue, which anyway has to last a minimum of 45 days and for which no dates have yet been agreed.
Moreover, there is a problem about the venue. The DRC government is adamant that the dialogue should take place in the territory under its control. Yet, all rebel groups are reluctant to comply under the pretext that such a venue would not be appropriate to guarantee their security, since the DRC government was unable to secure even the life of its own president, the late Laurent Kabila. The Congolese non-armed opposition is keen to participate in the dialogue, but at the same time it says such participation is meaningless without the total freeing of political activities throughout the Congolese territory.
On the May 19, the main opposition party, Etienne Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDSP), criticised a bill from Joseph Kabila's hand-picked Transition Assembly, setting up the rules to recognise political parties. The bill which abolishes Laurent Kabila's Decree 194 which imposed restrictive conditions for such recognition, has not brought about significant liberalisation. Indeed, the new text prohibits any Congolese party belonging to an international grouping such as the Socialist International (in which UDSP has an observer status) or as the Christian Democratic International (of which the Social and Christian Democratic Party is a full member). Moreover, the new bill enshrines the involvement of the judicial system in the internal disputes of political parties which have to be dealt with by the Supreme court.
Unsurprisingly, in its angry communiqué, the UDSP says it will ignore the bill which, through the recognition procedure, aims at obtaining legitimation from democratic parties by "a military, totalitarian and arbitrary power". Congolese human rights organisations do not either believe that the regime is progressing on a democratic path, despite the fact that 400 prisoners were released in the context of a presidential amnesty from the Kinshasa Re-education Centre on May 17. Amnesty International raised a protest on that same day against the "arbitrary arrest" of the President of the Lubumbashi branch of the human rights group ASADHO and of two other members of this organisation.
On May 22, 'La Voix des Sans Voix' (the Voice of the Voiceless) human rights group called on the government to close the jails of the dreaded DEMIAP, the military intelligence section in charge of the repression of "anti-patriotic activities". The creation of a united front involving the rebel groups, several opposition parties including the UDSP, and civil society organisations on May 4 is clearly an embarrassment for the Kinshasa regime whose intentions in initiating a dialogue about the constitutional future of the country are not trusted by both the rebels and the non armed opposition.
Beside this, there is also a disagreement between the signatories of the Lusaka agreement about the numbers and the identification of the so-called 'negative forces'. Whereas Rwanda and the UN Security Council itself estimate their numbers beyond 15,000, She Okitundu claims that they do not exceed 3,000. In addition, he only mentioned the ex-RAF and the FDD but not the Ugandan rebels. The Kinshasa authorities, unlike Rwanda and the Congolese rebels, do not consider the Mai-Mai fighters as 'negative forces' but as "civilian forces", whose disarmament should come much later in the process. In addition, the CRD and Bemba's Congolese Liberation Front (CLF) accuse the Kinshasa regime of "exporting the war" behind their lines by dropping weapons to the Mai-Mai groups. However, there is a difference in the approach of the Mai Mai problem by the CRD which fights them and by the CLF which is trying to incorporate those groups.
The mood between the parties remains profoundly hostile, as was shown by the accusation on May 25 by the commission of enquiry into the assassination of the late President Laurent Kabila, that Rwanda, Uganda and the CRD were involved in the murder. The accusation, formulated by a committee grouping representatives of the Congolese army and of the allied armies of Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia, lacks credibility as far as the Kinshasa-based rights groups are concerned. The commission did not come out with anything new, reacted 'Voice of the Voiceless', which expressed concern about the ill treatment and the torture inflicted to all the persons arrested in connection with the assassination.
Altogether, both the CRD and the CLF are rather pessimistic about the future. Jean-Pierre Bemba's view is that the deployment of UN observers between the lines, will only make official the de-facto partition of the country. That feeling is shared by observers in Paris who consider that the recent visit paid to President Robert Mugabe in Harare by the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame consisted in a Yalta-like agreement to share between them the riches of the Congo.
Ironically, the Kinshasa government itself is not very confident that the rebels and their allies will respect the ceasefire. Leonard She Okitundu told the press that his government was asking the UN Security Council, due to meet on the June 15, to strengthen its mandate, in order to enforce sanctions against those who do not respect the Lusaka agreement. Clearly, distrust between all parties continues to prevail. The scenario of a full-blown resumption of the war is anticipated in rebel quarters.
But they are particularly wary about the attitude of several powers, including France, which has been keen to demilitarise Kisangani and open up the traffic on the Congo river. CLF sources believe that the next stage could be a plot by the French and the DRC government to provoke a revolt in Kisangani and then call for sanctions against the CRD if it undertakes anything to clamp down. Belgium, which has been charged by the European Union with drafting a plan for the reconstruction of the DRC, due to be presented by Prime Minister Guy Verhofstad on the June 30 during the Independence celebrations in Kinshasa, is also seen as having adopted a staunch pro-Kabila line.