|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
ZIMBABWE, SCORNED FOR BOOTING WHITE FARMERS OFF THEIR LAND, TAPS COHEN & WOODS(posted 10/3/2001) http://www.1pr.com/washington_report/1003cohen.htm
Zimbabwe has given Cohen and Woods International a contract worth $200,000 to explain President Robert Mugabe's move to seize the land of the country's white farmers without compensation, and turn it over to black Army veterans of the country's 1970s war of liberation.
Mugabe, in power since 1987, blames the country's 75,000 whites for the economic collapse of the nation of more than 11.5 million people. His government has largely stood by as black squatters have overrun farms owned by whites. At least 30 people have been killed from during these farm invasions.
Supreme Court to rule Nov. 6
Zimbabwe's Supreme Court, according to Reuters, rules next month on a petition by the 4,500- member Commercial Farmers Union on the legality of the land seizures. Mugabe claims any compensation for the whites should come from the U.K, which ruled the country when it was known as Rhodesia. If the Supreme Court backs Mugabe, the Government will begin "resettlement" of blacks on the first 2,000 of 3,041 designated farms owned by whites.
Counter anti-Zimbabwe bias
Zimbabwe has been roundly criticized by governments and the international press for evicting white farmers from their land. C&W says its mission is to "overcome recent negative publicity," and to "restore the enduring trust, confidence and mutual respect between Zimbabwe and the international community."
The firm wants to allay concerns that private sector companies may have regarding investment in Zimbabwe. The political crisis in Zimbabwe, according to C&W, with its "attendant misunderstandings and recriminations, has unfairly poisoned international public opinion against Zimbabwe, and threatens the supportive political, financial and commercial cooperation which Zimbabwe continues to need to achieve its developmental goals." C&W wants to spread the message that Zimbabwe is committed to achieving a peaceful resolution to its political crisis.
March 29, 1999
Information warfare strategy takes shape
By Neil Munro, National Journal
The Tutsi "cruelly kill mankind . . . they kill by dissecting Hutus . . . by extracting various organs from the bodies of Hutus . . . for example, by taking the heart, the liver, the stomach . . . the [Tutsi] eat men."
It was this sort of vitriol in 1994 that helped ignite the bloody and genocidal Rwandan civil war, which killed perhaps 800,000 men, women, and children, and plunged Central Africa into a chaos from which it still has not recovered.
Many observers and former government officials argue that the Rwandan crisis could have been prevented, or at least lessened, if the U.S. government had acted early and with a minimum of force, even by simply jamming the incendiary radio broadcasts. Jamming "might have saved a few hundred thousand people from getting their heads bashed in, but ... [the White House] decided not to give it any consideration," said James L. Woods, then-deputy assistant secretary of Defense for African affairs and now a partner with Cohen and Woods International, an Arlington, Va., firm that lobbies on behalf of African governments.
President Clinton later flew to Rwanda, in 1998, and apologized for the international community's failure to take action that might have prevented the 1994 slaughter. And it is with the lesson of Rwanda firmly in mind that Administration officials are now completing a Presidential Decision Directive on International Public Information, intended to coordinate the U.S. government's numerous public relations offices so that, if necessary, Washington can move quickly to counter future barrages of hate propaganda anywhere in the world. The directive will create a new post at the State Department—the coordinator for international public information. The job will be to harmonize the messages transmitted via top-level press secretaries, the U.S. Information Agency, ambassadors, and even the combat units of the Defense Department.
The new process is already being used in the Balkans. U.S. agencies there are working to persuade Serbian Kosovars to accept the NATO peace plan, mostly by broadcasting interviews of U.S. policy-makers directly into the satellite-television dishes in many Kosovo homes—thus eluding Serbian television-jamming devices. "Anecdotally, a lot of people are viewing it, and apparently it is having a lot of impact," said a U.S. government official who asked not to be named.
Just as the United States military and governmental leaders gradually learned to harness sea, air, and nuclear power to advance the nation's interests, White House officials, through this directive and other steps, are now trying to knit the power of information—and information technology—into all aspects of national security strategy.
When signed, the directive will not only complement a May 1998 directive asking the FBI to create a national cyberspace defense, it will also dovetail with the Pentagon's growing focus on "information superiority"—its goal of dominating all aspects of information collection and dissemination during wartime. Pentagon planners say that if they were to lump together all the money they plan to spend on collecting, creating, and disseminating information, it would amount to an astonishing $43 billion a year in the next few years. And already, Pentagon officials are upgrading anti-hacker defenses and electronic-eavesdropping satellites, as well as developing exotic weaponry that, among other things, would be able to burn out enemy computers with powerful electromagnetic pulses.
But the Information Revolution is doing much more than reshaping national defense strategy. It is also affecting the lives of citizens, both personally and professionally, in a great many ways. So whatever grand infowar schemes the governmental hatchers might hatch, they will constantly bump up against the competing interests of personal privacy, corporate profits, and ultimately, the nature of modern democracy.
Information has always been vital in the conduct of a war. Without it, no one could inform decision-makers, guide weapons, resupply armies, or arrange soldiers into coherent fighting units. But reformers argue that the new information technologies can do much more—that they can be used alongside the panoply of nuclear deterrents, high-tech "smart" weapons, and low-tech weapons to deflate vastly larger armies and to win wars away from the battlefield. Armed with this array, the U.S. lost fewer than 400 lives—most of them to accidents—as it smashed the huge Iraqi army during the Persian Gulf War. On the other hand, uncontrolled information can be immensely destructive to U.S. aims. In 1993, Somali warlords sent the U.S. Army packing, after TV pictures of a few U.S. casualties were broadcast to an audience of U.S. voters already skeptical about the mission in Somalia.
The bare outlines of a newly emerging Information Age vision are laid out in Pentagon manuals, notably in Joint Pub. 3-13; Joint Doctrine For Information Operations. This strategy statement, which is driving the debate in the entire Administration, says that the nation can achieve its security goals if the U.S. government's many agencies work in cooperation to undermine, redirect, distort, or stop an enemy's use of information—while simultaneously protecting information used by U.S. leaders, soldiers, businesses, and citizens.
But that broad vision creates an acute dilemma for government officials, especially soldiers, whose job it is to defend a Constitution under which the government and military are granted only narrow authority, and only by the consent of the governed. Information warfare, unless tightly controlled, may leap well beyond these narrow limits, now that national security information is increasingly commingled with public information, a citizen's private information, a business' proprietary data, and the global Internet marketplace. Thus nearly every citizen cheers the Navy's defense of the U.S. coastlines, but few would welcome a government offer to defend the data on their personal computers.
The information-operations strategy raises obvious political problems. If it were taken to its logical extreme, Pentagon and FBI officials would stand guard on the nation's communications networks, and customs officials would block exports of the compact computers that are so valuable to foreign soldiers, while government flacks would spin tales designed to protect the citizenry from the blandishments of enemies, both domestic and foreign. This Big Brother future is not desirable, or likely, or even possible, acknowledge government officials, even as they work behind closed doors to square the circles of their emerging vision.
So far, officials have squared only a few small circles. For example, White House officials have replaced the Pentagon's original phrase, "information warfare," with the nicer-sounding "information operations," thus fuzzing the distinction—and easing future coordination—between defense agencies and domestic law enforcement agencies. But top officials are still grappling with the tougher policy questions—some pressing, some barely recognized, and others almost beyond the scope of the federal government.
U.S. Hacker War
Consider the relatively modest questions raised here at home by the United States' undoubted ability to wage offensive information warfare by hacking into foreign computers to pilfer secrets, move funds, corrupt data, and destroy software.
When such activities are planned for a narrow, routine, peacetime spy operation, they are dubbed "special intelligence operations" and must be approved by top officials, sometimes even by the President. But what if a more massive U.S. hacker attack was designed to wreck the computers that control an enemy's banking system, electrical-power grid, or telephone network? Launching such a warlike operation would require a different approval process—maybe a presidential finding, or perhaps even a congressional assent that the nation is at war.
And how should the President and his advisers weigh the merits of offensive hacker attacks? One obvious question is whether the United States should forswear such computer attacks in the hope that international law might, over time, curb foreign computer assaults on the United States. This option is advocated by China and Russia, both of whom sought arms control agreements to curb the superior U.S. nuclear armory during the Cold War. In January, China and Russia persuaded the U.N. General Assembly to study the hacker-war issue after the United States rejected an initial proposal to outlaw offensive computer attacks.
This hacker-arms-control option seems absurd on its face because it is so difficult to monitor which countries are complying and which aren't. Nevertheless, it is being considered because the Pentagon is worried about foreign computer attacks on our networks, and because the military wants some clear direction before formulating information-warfare plans. The Defense Department is expected, in the near future, to give the U.S. Space Command responsibility for defending military information networks and for launching military hacker attacks on foreign networks. Space Command can't develop plans for such attacks until the White House signs off on a national policy—just as the U.S. Air Force's Strategic Air Command could not craft Cold War nuclear plans until the White House developed a nuclear strategy.
Which raises another question vexing White House decision-makers: How much consideration should Space Command give to the possibility of "collateral damage"—damage, for example, to U.S. economic interests? After all, Space Command may wish to implant software flaws in enemy computers before war. But politicians who represent districts with lots of high-tech employment might wish to bar such electronic "preparation-of-the-battlefield" measures until the formal exchange of gunfire, especially if such peacetime tactics make foreign customers suspicious that U.S.-built computers are infested with Pentagon-approved security bugs or viruses.
In view of these potential controversies, the White House may put a civilian agency in charge of U.S. hacker attacks, just as the Energy Department now controls the production and storage of nuclear weapons. "It is very important to ensure firm civilian control of strategic information operations, and one way of doing that would be to treat them much like we treat nuclear weapons," said Col. Charles Dunlap, the staff judge advocate at Shaw Air Force Base, in South Carolina.
Apart from debates about when to use information warfare against an enemy, questions also arise about who should defend the United States against computer attacks—the Pentagon, or domestic law enforcement. The White House's May 1998 directive instructed the FBI—not the military—to organize a defense of the nation's electronic central nervous system.
The directive seeks to defend America's critical computer networks, including the ones used by the banking system, power grid, telephone lines, and other vital services. Government officials say these systems could easily be crashed by well-organized hackers in what would be an "electronic Pearl Harbor."
Only "this Pearl Harbor's going to be different," John J. Hamre, the deputy secretary of Defense, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 9. "It is not going to be against Navy ships sitting in a Navy shipyard; it's going to be against commercial infrastructure, and we don't control that." The threat is deemed so great that back in July 1996, then-Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick even called on Congress to fund a program, in the style of the atomic bomb's Manhattan Project, that would defend the nation's critical computer networks.
Despite repeated claims of organized hacker attacks, however, the government has not published any evidence that any terrorists or foreign states are trying to cripple the nation's information networks. This may be because there is no evidence. Or it may be that the Pentagon fears that publishing the evidence would help the attackers. The most that has been said in public is that countries such as France, China, and Israel are hacking into U.S. computers to steal technology and trade secrets, and that organized attempts are being made to map U.S. government computer networks. Still, the vast majority of known hacker attacks amount to petty vandalism or minor criminality, and are largely insignificant for national security.
But according to the new information-operations vision, business and government, law enforcement, and national security are all bound together by their shared information systems. Identical information technology is used by businesses and governments, and more than 95 percent of Pentagon communications—plus 100 percent of critical banking, energy, transportation, and electrical-grid data—travel via civilian communications lines.
To bolster the computer defenses of government agencies, and of industry, the May 1998 White House directive advocates new spending, including money for long-term research into hacker defense. The White House says it will spend a total of $10 billion to fend off new warfare threats—including biological, chemical, and information—over the next few years, although Republicans say the real figure is closer to $5 billion.
The directive also gives the FBI a few small carrots with which to prod companies into upgrading their computer defenses. The carrots include free FBI technical advice and the sharing of secret intelligence about hacker activities. The stick is the unstated but real threat that companies will be sued by customers or shareholders whose interests are hurt when a hacker cripples a company's computers.
Overall, however, despite the high-decibel alarms from Hamre and others at the Pentagon, the White House's efforts have been surprisingly modest. The White House has not given the FBI any new authority—as far as is publicly known—to defend or control company networks, and has done little to win national or international support for new rules that would let the FBI pursue hackers through the various national neighborhoods on the global Internet. Without such powers of pursuit, neither identification nor retribution is likely, thus deterrence is very weak.
The government is, however, studying proposals to amend antitrust law and the Freedom of Information Act to allow more sharing of information among companies and the government without threat from an antitrust lawsuit or a nosy reporter, said Michael A. Vatis, director of the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center.
So far, most companies have ignored the whole issue, much to the distress of national security officials. "What this represents to [most executives] is some future issue, certainly not well-understood, and with no air of crisis," said Michael J. O'Neil, who served as general counsel at the CIA until 1997. This passivity is risky, because a damaging hacker attack may cause Congress to override industry objections and pass a set of expensive and intrusive network-defense laws, said O'Neil, who is now a partner at Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds.
Meanwhile, civil libertarians see information warfare, both offensive and defensive, as an excuse for law enforcement and intelligence officials to win bigger budgets and wider legal authority over information, domestically and internationally. For "the FBI to assume ... authority for domestic networking is a half-step toward a form of domestic military control," especially when the threat is poorly demonstrated, said Marc Rotenberg of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center. It would be wiser, say libertarians and many industry observers, to let the unfettered marketplace—currently led by American technology—decide how to defend against hacker attacks, with some advice from government agencies. Those companies that perform well at making information secure over the Internet and other networks will survive. Those that perform poorly, won't.
Underlying the discussions over how much, or whether, to protect our information streams, is the question of whether technology is inherently good, or simply neutral. Does the spread of information technology benefit everyone, making others more like us, making them more eager for peaceful commerce in goods and ideas? Or does it simply give them tools to build new weapons for aggression? That issue has been around for many years; in the climate of 20th-century boosterism before World War I, optimists argued that the growing international trade in finished goods would suppress nationalist tensions, foster understanding, and give rise to a world where war was no longer logical. That didn't quite pan out.
The Clinton administration clearly believes that the spread of technology is essentially good, that technology will transmit American ideas of democracy and freedom around the world. Today's sales of high-powered computers to bad actors—including Russian nuclear-weapons laboratories, the Chinese military, unknown terrorist groups, and criminal syndicates—are only a tiny fraction of U.S. high-tech sales, the argument goes. High-tech sales, in the aggregate, do America too much good to be interrupted. They spur economic growth, create millions of new U.S. jobs, boost government revenue to help fund extra military spending, increase diplomatic clout, help the White House's poll numbers, and make hostile countries dependent on a web of peaceful trading links, say trade proponents and administration officials.
Vice President Al Gore is the chief proponent of this view. "We can build on our progress and use these powerful new forces of technology to advance our oldest and most cherished values: to extend knowledge and prosperity to the most isolated inner cities at home, and the most rural villages around the world ... to deepen the meaning of democracy and freedom in this Internet age," Gore said last October.
This logic prompted the early Clinton Administration to drop Cold War-era export curbs on computers, data-scrambling gear, and satellites. But these days, that policy is returning to bite the White House, now beset by Republican and press charges that it has recklessly given military advantages to enemies of American interests. Critics point most alarmingly to China, which in recent years has bought numerous fast computers and high-capacity communications networks, an aircraft factory, rocket expertise. Growing protests over the Administration's China policy forced the cancellation of a $450 million contract for a pair of cell-phone satellites that could serve military as well as civilian purposes.
U.S. high-tech companies bitterly oppose trade curbs and argue that the benefits of exports outweigh the risks. And because Silicon Valley and its many imitators are a major sector of this economy now, this argument gets a very respectful hearing, from lawmakers and from the Administration in Washington. Joel L. Johnson, at the Aerospace Industries Association, for example, says that the U.S. government gave up numerous good jobs when it nixed the satellite sale, and delayed China's satellite program for only a short time—until it can buy replacement satellites from Europe. Johnson says that even from a security perspective, it is better that we, and not the Europeans, sell to China. "If we sell the Chinese a satellite, we have the [satellite's] wiring diagrams, and there may be some stuff in there that the Chinese don't know about" that would allow the United State to turn it off in a crisis, he said. But "the French won't give us an 'off' switch."
More broadly, many officials argue that exports of American technology, and the cultural values carried by it, boost the United States' so-called "soft power"—the nation's ability to achieve desired long-range goals of freedom and democracy by persuasion rather than coercion. Champions of this view include retired Navy Adm. William A. Owens, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Joseph S. Nye, former assistant secretary of Defense for international affairs and now the Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Owens, Nye, and others hold that America's soft power—gradually infusing into other cultures the U.S. values of human rights, freedom of thought, and freedom of commerce—undermined the Soviet Union, helped create the 1989 protests in China, and has otherwise promoted democracy, trade, and peace around the world. This view is, in essence, the ultimate American information-warfare policy. The message transmitted throughout the Cold War by American exports—be they television programs—such as Baywatch or The International Herald Tribune, or Arnold Schwarzenegger movies—made a clear and ultimately victorious point—"Socialism stinks, capitalism is cool."
Armed with this notion of soft power, and seeing information as the chief weapon of choice, the White House is drafting its new directive to try to improve the various ways the government uses information and coordinate these uses into a strategy to use abroad.
Ever since World War II, the U.S. government has augmented the work of American commercial news organizations in reaching out to foreign audiences with its own agencies, including the U.S. Information Agency, Radio Free Europe, and Radio Liberty. At modest cost, these agencies helped undermine communism in Europe, and they are now operating against the Chinese and Serbian governments. These three older Cold War-era agencies now also use TV and the Internet to get their message to places where commercial media won't go and to get past hostile government censors. Recently, they have begun to tighten coordination with the departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Defense. The USIA, for example, has Web pages explaining U.S. bombing raids in Kosovo.
The new presidential directive is intended to further such efforts, and "stems out of the lesson learned from Rwanda and Bosnia, where hate propaganda was used to incite and organize genocide," said a government official. The directive calls on all government agencies to increase their training and inter-agency coordination, and urges them to cooperate with foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations to help spread an authorized message or to counter a false one. These foreign organizations include corporations, environmental and health advocates, democracy proponents, and even populations willing to cooperate with the U.S. government. Already, the U.S. Agency for International Development is paying $800,000 per year to Search for Common Ground, a Washington-based aid organization that operates a pro-peace radio station in Rwanda's neighboring country, Burundi.
The new directive is intended "to bring all the pieces together," a government official said, thus giving policy-makers an extra tool beyond the usual list of economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, or military threats. In the case of Rwanda, this tool would have offered the President a more acceptable alternative than military intervention, he added.
Significantly, the draft directive also calls for development of a still-amorphous "National Information Strategy." This item may merely generate reams of bureaucratic blather, or it may provide a formative stepping stone toward a security strategy for the Information Age, just as the notion of "containment" set the strategy for the Cold War, and "mutual assured destruction" set the strategy for the nuclear age, say government officials. "What George Kennan did for us in 1948, when he wrote the `containment' article, is what we are searching for," said one former government official who is pushing for such a comprehensive strategy.
The first step toward a national information strategy could even be completed this year, said John Arquilla, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, in Monterey, Calif. Already working with top-level officials on information policy, Arquilla said this grand plan should closely combine the computer side of Information Operations with the public-information side; create incentives for all agencies to freely share information; create a policy of "guarded openness" that balances financial profits and other benefits from high-tech trade against damage to national security; establish a top-level organization to manage the information strategy; and set policies that guide any computer attacks launched by the United States.
Although the Defense Department will be encouraging the White House to take a comprehensive view of these issues, political caution and bureaucratic rivalry may stymie creation of this grand strategy, Arquilla warned. In its place, White House officials may simply take the easy route and write separate policies for each aspect of the problem. That route would create a dysfunctional set of feuding fiefdoms, said Arquilla.
One encouraging sign for those who want a comprehensive information-warfare strategy is that the White House already has a czar for information operations—Richard A. Clarke, the President's national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection, and counterterrorism. Clarke, an influential civil servant at the National Security Council, was instrumental in writing the 1998 directive and has shaped the pending public information directive. But it is not clear whether President Clinton has enough interest in the issue to help when Clarke, the Pentagon's Hamre, and other interested officials try to bring the Cabinet together to chart a strategy for the Information Age. Indeed, "a lot of these issues are just too hard," said one congressional staff member skeptical of the White House's willingness to clash with high-tech export industries and anti-government libertarians. Clarke declined to be interviewed for this article.
If no grand strategy is crafted by the White House, a partial strategy will slowly emerge as agencies muddle through piecemeal, driven by the latest crisis. Such a substitute strategy would be put together largely by senior and middle-ranking officials, occasionally in the open but often behind closed doors, usually by appointees, and sometimes by the courts.
Of course, this bottom-up approach may not provide an answer soon enough to be useful, may not allow for sufficient public debate, and may not be understood by the various participating agencies because of the tight secrecy surrounding the topic. "It is easier to get somebody [cleared] to read into nuclear targets than the small information-warfare things," said the Air Force's Dunlap.
That would leave the United States with a crippled strategic approach on the day it finds itself surprised by the first war of the Information Age. Still, that's the way the United States entered World War II—and everyone knows how that turned out.
From The Star (SA), 30 April
Zim opposition leader may face treason charge
Harare - Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will be charged with terrorism and could face life in prison when he appears before the country's High Court on May 7, his lawyer said on Monday. "He is being charged under Section 51 of the Law and Order Maintainance Act, which covers acts of terrorism," lawyer Innocent Chagonda told Reuters. It had been expected that he would be charged for inciting violence.
The charge arises out of a statement Tsvangirai made to an MDC rally in Harare in September last year, urging President Robert Mugabe to resign. According to news reports at the time, Tsvangirai, whose party had come close to defeating Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF in June elections, told about 20 000 supporters: "We ask Mugabe to go peacefully. If he does not, we will overthrow him violently." Tsvangirai said later he had meant that the people of Zimbabwe would rise against Mugabe out of frustration and not that his party would organise a coup or any other illegal action.
"It (the charge) is not appropriate from what transpired at the event," Chagonda said. Lawyers in Harare said any sentence of six months' imprisonment or more would disqualify Tsvangirai, a former trade union leader, from standing against Mugabe in presidential elections due early next year. The Law and Order Maintainance Act was introduced by white Rhodesian leader Ian Smith more than 20 years ago as a weapon against Mugabe's guerrillas fighting to end white rule. Mugabe won power in 1980 and announced earlier this month that he would seek a further six years in office because he was the only person who could deliver the country from its crushing economic decline.
From The Daily News, 30 April
War vets accused of extorting money to have farms delisted
Masvingo - War veterans, some in the Masvingo province Zanu PF executive, have allegedly extorted money from commercial farmers claiming they could use their influence to have their farms delisted. At a tense provincial land committee meeting held in Masvingo on Thursday, it emerged that some veterans had demanded money from the farmers. They promised they would use their political clout to have the farms delisted. Part of a letter written to the land committee and signed by the veterans read: "We as war veterans are not interested in some of the properties you have acquired. We, therefore, appeal to you to have them delisted . ..".
Masvingo provincial administrator Alphonse Chikurira on Friday confirmed the land redistribution exercise was riddled with irregularities as war veterans, MPs and even ministers were meeting commercial farmers without the knowledge of the provincial land task force. Said Chikurira: "We have received reports that veterans and some politicians are promising to have farmers’ properties delisted. It is a very disturbing situation." Chikurira said no one should pay money to be given land or to have his farm delisted. "A farm can only be delisted on the recommendation of the district land committee. It is illegal and highly criminal to demand money from farmers," said Chikurira. A commercial farmer who was swindled told The Daily News war veterans demanded money to have his property delisted. "I gave them money, but to my surprise the provincial land committee said they were not part of the deal," said the farmer. Commercial Farmers' Union regional chairman Mike Clarke said reports of war veterans demanding money form commercial farmers were on the increase.
From IRIN (UN), 30 April
Harare Quiet As War Veterans Back Off
Zimbabwe's capital was reported quiet on Monday as self-styled war veterans and ZANU-PF supporters appeared to be in retreat. "It's much calmer here compared to last week," Steve Omollo, Disaster Preparedness Delegate with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Harare told IRIN. President Robert Mugabe's regime has been backing off from its threat to withdraw protection from diplomats after unprecedented international outrage.
Chenjerai Hunzvi, fiery leader of the war veterans was quoted last Thursday by the 'Financial Gazette' as saying that embassies and foreign NGOs that supported the opposition would be next on his hit-list. A statement from the Zimbabwe foreign ministry issued within hours of the Financial Gazette report said that diplomats and aid agency staff who backed the regime's opponents "may not hope to receive assistance" from the government. Britain said on Thursday that it viewed the threats in a very serious light. But the statement has yet to be published in the state press, indicating that the government may have got cold feet in the wake of international concern. Events over the weekend supported the notion that ZANU-PF may have realised it had gone too far. Hunzvi backtracked from his bellicose remarks, reportedly appearing on state television on Sunday to deny his statement. A day earlier, Joseph Chinotimba, who has led a six-week campaign of often violent invasions of private companies, was quoted in the state-controlled 'Herald' as saying he had instructed his war veterans "to stop interfering" with private companies.
Omollo said that the IFRC, along with other foreign NGOs, was meeting foreign ministry officials on Monday afternoon in order to obtain assurances that the attacks would stop. The IFRC office in the capital was targeted by aggressive war veterans last week, ostensibly to settle a labour dispute. "We don't know why the vets came here, someone was dismissed a long time ago for misconduct, but all the proper channels were followed," Omollo added. Analysts told IRIN that the retractions and the blotting out of the foreign ministry threat were probably ordered by Mugabe, who appears to be in direct control of the militias. During the last six weeks of raids on hundreds of private companies, many of them foreign owned, as well as on foreign aid agencies, militants have declared they take orders only from Mugabe.
Ben Magaiza, CEO of the Harare Chamber of Commerce, told IRIN that from what he knew, there had been a significant reduction in the number attacks on companies since Friday. "Someone high up has told the vets to back off for now, but it doesn't mean we're out of this yet," he said. On Friday, SAPA reported that a mob was about to collect Zimbabwe Z$5-million (about US $65,000) in extortion from the local subsidiary of Dutch multinational Philips, when officers of Mugabe's secret police intervened and told the company not to pay. Zimbabwe was plunged into full-scale international disrepute last week over the foreign ministry threat and the attacks on private companies, with Harare's diplomatic representatives in Britain, South Africa and Germany summoned for angrily worded protests from the host governments. Britain on Monday warned its citizens living in or travelling to Zimbabwe to "exercise caution" following attacks on foreign embassies and businesses there.
From BBC News, 1 May
Harare fears May Day showdown
War veterans' leaders are challenging the unions
Harare - Trade unions in Zimbabwe are due to hold traditional May Day rallies on Tuesday. However there are fears that this year's main rally in the capital, Harare, could descend into violence. Recent weeks have seen war veterans who were responsible for the invasions of white-owned farms intervening in labour disputes on behalf of urban workers. The war veterans say they want to replace the existing trade union leadership, and plan to join the workers' demonstration. About 5,000 members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions are expected to march from the centre of Harare to a rally in one of the city's stadiums. There they will join thousands of other trade unionists to celebrate May Day. However, this year the war veterans who have been invading businesses in Zimbabwe's cities are challenging the trade union leadership. The war veterans say they can better represent the interests of urban workers. The leader of the opposition MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, is a former secretary-general of the Congress of Trade Unions and sees the war veterans' challenge as an assault on his support base. With both trade unionists and war veterans planning to attend the rally the fear is that the battle for the hearts and minds of Zimbabwe's workers could result in physical confrontation.From The Star (SA), 30 April
Photographers held after taking Mugabe pics
Harare - Three freelance photographers were arrested after they took photographs of President Robert Mugabe as he toured the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo last week. According to the independent Daily News the three photographers, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, said they were arrested by members of Mugabe's security entourage. The bodyguards demanded to know why they were taking pictures of the 77-year-old president before they were handcuffed. The trio were taken to the Bulawayo central police station and released from the cells 24 hours later, one of the photographers was quoted as saying. They paid Z$180 admission of guilt fines after being charged under the Law and Order Maintenance Act. Bulawayo police refused to say which law the trio had broken. One of the photographers said they had been accredited by Trade Fair authorities. "We normally take photographs of the president as he visits the stands because the owners of the stands want to retain their own personal photographs of the president," he said. Daily News photographer Grey Chitiga was also threatened by security aides.
Comment from the African Defence Journal, 1 May
Hind helicopters unsuited for crowd control
The four Russian-built Hind helicopters, which recent reports suggest are being modified for the Air Force of Zimbabwe, are designed for fast sweeping attacks on armour at low level and are unsuited for hovering or circling tasks such as crowd control, says the Harare-based African Defence Journal.
The Air Force of Zimbabwe originally ordered six Hind Mi-24/35's from Russia soon after the war in the Congo (DRC) began. The designation Mi-35 indicates export status. Originally sold in a slightly downgraded version, financial pressures in recent years to earn foreign exchange has resulted in a full combat suite and upgraded weapon system for new Mi-35 export aircraft being on offer. This option is also available as a retrofit programme to upgrade previously exported aircraft. Fighting in the DRC claimed two Mi-24/35's, leaving four in the AFZ inventory. Because instalments on the deal were not kept up, partly as a result of failed promises by Laurent Kabila to fully fund the DRC war for Zimbabwe in US dollars, the Zimbabweans experienced difficulties in paying the Russians. Erratic payments by the Zimbabweans eventually lead to the Russians withdrawing spares and technical personnel from Gweru some time ago. It is now thought that, at least until recently, only one of these aircraft was serviceable - the other three having been cannibalised for spares. If the recent reports of modifications to these gunships are correct this suggests that money or credit facilities have finally been settled, and the Russians are now resuming work on the aircraft.
Essential maintenance work on the surviving four Hinds are necessary before any modest upgrade can be undertaken. Should reports of this work be indeed correct, then the work is most likely to undertaken in the cockpit area, while plinths for machine guns or grenade launchers are also likely to be fitted on the floor in the area adjacent to the door of the aircraft. This modification is now the Russian export-standard after experience in Chechnya. However, even with these modifications, the Hinds are unsuitable for slow manoeuvres in ground effect, at the altitudes and hot conditions found in Harare, specially at mid-day and early afternoon. The Hind is designed to come in low and fast and attack armour on the ground in one pass. The pilot and gunner are protected by a bath of armour plated titanium. The best way of explaining the Hind would be to classify it akin to a heavy ground attack aircraft, more like the British Hawker Typhoon used to attack ground targets in Europe during World War II than a nimble platform than say, the Spitfire.
The Mi-24/35's fuel consumption in the hover is excessive, as essentially the aircraft takes off and flies close to its what could be considered in other aircraft as an overloaded condition. Because of this, the designers fitted small stub wings to unload the rotors for high speed flight, contributing to the safety margins of the aircraft and improving fuel consumption. It is African Defence Journal's contention that crowd control and observation duties can be carried out more efficiently and economically using the single Alouette III and four Bell 412's still operational in the AFZ fleet during April 2001.
|01/05/2001 15:40 - (SA)|
"We want everyone to bring their problems to us for settling," said firebrand war vet leader Chenjerai Hunzvi, in a speech at Harare's Rufaro soccer stadium.
Fellow war vet leader Joseph Chinotimba assembled a list of about 20 employers he said his followers would target for raids to settle labour problems.
During the last month, the war vets have raided scores of companies and beaten or harassed managers, claiming they were acting in the name of disgruntled employees.
Chinotimba invited his few hundred supporters in the crowd to namecompanies they wanted to see raided.
His list included international electronics giant Philips, two major Zimbabwean supermarket chains, the national railway, the state postal and telecom company, the national bus line, a funeral home and a cooking oil company.
But it also included small employers, such as a local producers of matches and fireplaces, as well as employers of domestic workers.
One company named by Chinotimba, Fawcett Security, already had its Bulawayo offices raided by war veterans on Monday, in a raid of three major security companies in the city.
The threat comes amid a campaign by President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party to bolster his support among urban workers ahead of next year's presidential elections.
Zanu-PF failed to win any urban constituencies in last year's parliamentary elections, losing them all to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
His militant followers are now transferring to Zimbabwe's cities the violent tactics of intimidation and harassment they used in rural areas when they occupied 1,600 white-owned farms ahead of the June parliamentary elections.
At least 34 people died in political violence ahead of the polls, and thousands more were beaten, raped or kidnapped. - Sapa-AFP
From Business Day
May day protests turn violent as activists reject globalisation
PARIS — Police and demonstrators fought street battles in cities around the world on Tuesday as many May Day marches turned into violent protests against globalisation, capitalism and political corruption.
In Australia and Germany, dozens of police officers were injured and many more left-wing demonstrators arrested in clashes with riot squads.
Meanwhile in London, where the police had warned of a repeat of last year’s violent unrest, demonstrations began peacefully and appeared not to have attracted the expected crowds.
Each country’s protests were spiced with local economic and political grievances, but the common recipe was the demonstrators’ anger at unemployment and the destabilising side-effects of global capitalism.
In Australia’s main cities, an alliance of anarchists, Trotskyists, green groups, students and schoolchildren brought traffic to a standstill in a series of blockades aimed at big business.
In Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, some protests turned violent and at least 60 police were injured and dozens of protesters arrested.
The demonstrations were organised by the same group responsible for the violent disruption of a World Economic Forum summit in Melbourne last September, part of a series of anti-globalisation protests that started at a World Trade Organisation conference in Seattle in 1999.
In Brisbane, 600 chanting, banner-waving protesters forced the closure of the city’s stock exchange, while in Sydney, mounted police fought a running battle with protesters trying to repeat the exploit.
In Berlin, about 500 protesters constructed a street barrier overnight and set it ablaze. When police, armed with water cannons, attempted to clear it, they were pelted with stones and bottles.
About 9 000 officers from around the country have been ordered to the capital to prevent the street violence that has marred Germany’s Labour Day for more than a decade.
In South Korea, 20 000 brushed aside a police barricade on Tuesday to defy a ban on taking their protests against the economic policies of President Kim Dae-Jung toward Seoul’s main government district.
Demonstrators and pedestrians applauded as the police ranks gave way. There was no immediate violence, but 600 riot police formed a second barricade 50m further down the road.
In London, 6 000 police were deployed, promising “zero-tolerance” of the kind of protest which last year saw damage costing than £500 000 inflicted on banks and symbolic targets such as McDonald’s restaurants.
The demonstrations began peacefully as a crowd of up to 700 people brought traffic to a standstill outside King’s Cross station for 30 minutes, before beginning a slow march under heavy police escort.
“Overthrow capitalism and replace it with something nice,” read a banner.
In Paris overnight, several hundred protesters demanding a tax on global capital flows marched from the stock exchange to the Seine where they threw wreaths into the river to symbolise the fate of thousands of employees sacked by Marks and Spencer, Moulinex, Danone and other international firms.
In Japan, about 1,36-million workers attended rallies across the country as trade unionists warned new Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s plans to kick-start the stagnant economy could lead to unemployment and bankruptcies.
“It will force the Japanese people to make a sacrifice in the name of reform, bringing only unhappiness to the masses while benefiting a handful of the privileged,” said Yoji Kobayashi, president of the National Confederation of Trade Unions.
In Taiwan, several thousand workers waving banners and chanting slogans marched down the streets of Taipei demanding job protection. Officials have hinted the jobless rate for April could top the record 4,1% posted in August 1985, as more layoffs are expected amid mounting mergers and closures.
“We want to tell the government that we really can’t take it any more,” said Lin Hui-kuan, president of the Chinese (Taiwanese) Federation of Labour.
In Zimbabwe, the traditional Worker’s Day rally turned into a confrontation between opposition groups and war veterans loyal to President Robert Mugabe, and riot police were sent to clear 5 000 people from Harare’s Rufaro stadium.
In Pakistan, police arrested dozens of demonstrators who defied a ban on rallies.
And in Moscow, where there were no reports of violence, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev joined a march by 17 000 trade unionists while Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov addressed some 15 000 supporters nearby. — Sapa-AFP---------
From the Daily News
WORKERS mark Workers’
Day today with little cause for celebration as the economic crisis continues and
companies close down.
Last year, the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) cancelled Workers' Day celebrations because it
did not want to risk workers’ lives at the height of the bloody campaign for the
June parliamentary election.
Matthews Masokere and Ernest Chifombote, the bodyguards of MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai, appeared before Harare provincial magistrate, Dominic Muzavazi, yesterday on charges of undergoing unlawful military training.
Masokere, 38, of Zengeza 3
in Chitungwiza, and Chifombote of Marlborough, Harare, are alleged to have
clandestinely undergone military training in Uganda, contravening Section 24 (2)
of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act Chapter 11:07.
THE European Union (EU)
has expressed concern over reports of threats against foreign diplomats and aid
agencies in Zimbabwe.
The EU statement follows a
warning by Chenjerai Hunzvi, a ruling party MP and leader of the country’s
so-called war veterans, that foreign organisations would be the next targe of
Mugabe police to use gunships
Harare - The government of Zimbabwe has secretly converted four helicopter gunships for use in police operations. With tensions running high, the readying of gunships would appear to signal more violence in the near future. Last week President Robert Mugabe's government issued an unprecedented threat against foreign embassies and aid organisations, and launched a renewed campaign of intimidation of pro-democracy campaigners. The Mi-35 'Hind' helicopters, which are already equipped with armaments, have been fitted to operate against small groups of scattered targets.
Embassies and aid organisations were increasing security and making plans to pull out personnel yesterday. Diplomats and aid workers had been warned that they would 'live and meet with the fortunes of the party they would have chosen to support'. More than 32 supporters of the opposition MDC have been killed in state-sponsored political violence in the past year.
The threat came as Mugabe loyalists, particularly the war veterans led by Chenjerai 'Hitler' Hunzvi, began a campaign of violence and extortion directed at factories and businesses in urban areas. 'Our next target will be to deal once and for all with foreign embassies and non-governmental organisations who fund the MDC,' Hunzvi said. Mugabe, who is 77, has repeatedly attacked Britain as Zimbabwe's chief overseas enemy and a supporter of the MDC. Virtually all Western donors, with the exception of France, have halted financial aid to the government, citing its oppression, corruption and economic mismanagement. Instead, the aid has gone to civic organisations which support democracy.
John Makumbe, a political scientist, said the threat was part of a wider strategy. 'It is an attack on the foreign funding of any organisation that stands up for democratic rights and human rights in this country,' he said. Last week Mugabe's war veterans stole 140 tonnes of EU food aid. Police took no action to stop two days of looting of a food warehouse. Harare said that 'humanitarian personnel who allowed themselves to indulge in partisan political work' would not receive government protection 'when they find themselves in trouble'.
From Business Day (SA), 29 April
Mugabe regime backtracking on threats to diplomats
Harare - President Robert Mugabe’s regime appeared on Sunday to be in retreat after unprecedented international outrage over its threats to withdraw protection from diplomats faced with attack by lawless pro-government mobs. Hitler Hunzvi, leader of Mugabe’s notorious militia of so-called guerrilla war veterans, appeared on state television on Sunday and denied his statement reported in the independent Financial Gazette late last week that the militias planned to storm foreign missions.
The usually respected newspaper said Hunzvi had vowed to "deal once and for all with foreign embassies who are funding the (opposition) MDC. But on Sunday he said: "I never said that. We cannot be seen to be terrorising embassies or non-governmental organisations. The aim (of the Financial Gazette) was to tarnish the image of the war veterans." A statement from the Zimbabwe foreign ministry issued within hours of the Financial Gazette report that diplomats and aid agency staff who backed the regime’s opponents "may not hope to receive assistance" from the government. However, for the second day running on Sunday, the ministry’s threat failed to appear in the state press. Also, on Saturday, Joseph Chinotimba, who has led a six-week campaign of often violent invasions of private companies, was quoted in the state-controlled Herald as saying he had instructed his war veterans "to stop interfering" with private companies.
"It looks like damage control," said a Western diplomat. "The government has obviously got a big fright." Observers also believe that the retractions and the blotting out of the foreign ministry threat were ordered by Mugabe, who appears to be in direct control of the militias. They point out that in the last year of mayhem wreaked by the veterans, their leaders have openly ignored attempts by police, top cabinet ministers and the country’s most senior courts to control them. During the last six weeks of raids on hundreds of private companies, many of them foreign owned, as well as on foreign aid agencies, veterans have declared they take orders only from Mugabe.
Business sources contacted said on Sunday there appeared to be a significant reduction in the number attacks on companies since Friday. On that day, a mob was about to collect Z$5m ($90 000) in extortion from the local subsidiary of Dutch multinational Philips, when officers of Mugabe’s secret police intervened and told the company not to pay. A seriously violent confrontation at part-German-owned Border Timbers in the south-eastern town of Chimanimani was averted on Friday when veterans told hundreds of company workers gathered in readiness that they were withdrawing. In Harare the same day, Dezign Incorporated, one of the first companies to be stormed by war veterans, and whose managing director was assaulted and abducted, reopened on for work for the first time in six weeks after war veterans guarding the gates moved off. "It’s easy to say that things have settled down, we will have to wait and see if they keep away," said a company executive who asked not to be named.
Zimbabwe was plunged into full-scale international disrepute last week over the foreign ministry threat and the attacks on private companies, with Harare’s diplomatic representatives in Britain, SA and Germany summoned for angrily worded protests from the host governments, while protests were also made here by the European Union. Most Western diplomatic missions gave their staff security briefings on Friday and were reviewing their security arrangements, diplomatic sources said, after what they described as an abrogation by Mugabe’s regime of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic obligations under which host governments protect all diplomatic establishments.
From The Sunday Herald (UK), 29 April
Caesar's laurel crown shows signs of slipping in Mbeki's new South Africa
Glasgow - South Africa's most important newspaper has levelled a blistering attack on President Thabo Mbeki and accused him of starting to show all the signs of bigotry, fear and paranoia which brought Zimbabwe to the edge of collapse. Top ranking security force members have accused leading black politicians of plotting to replace- or kill - Mr Mbeki.
On the eve of a state visit in June to Britain, during which President Mbeki will visit Scotland, an editorial in the ''Mail and Guardian'' described his 22 months in power as ''a disastrous reign.'' The paper has opened a nationwide debate on whether Thabo Mbeki should be allowed to continue in power now that he is revealing signs of megalomania and paranoia. In a front page editorial which had the ANC leadership in Pretoria shrieking with anger, the liberal paper declared: ''His 22 months in power have been disastrous. And he has no-one to blame but himself. Whether in his dealings with her AIDS crisis - surely the gravest threat ever to confront the country - his timidity over Zimbabwe, or his dealings with the sensitive matter of race in our policies, Mbeki has made worse the disfigured nationhood bequeathed us by apartheid.''
The 'Mail and Guardian'' was considered by Nelson Mandela and others as a champion of the ANC cause during its long and bitter fight against apartheid. Last week Mr Mandela intervened in this potentially explosive situation. He gave his massive and still unsullied support to three of South Africa's most prominent politicians and freedom fighters who have been accused by that country's security apparatchiks of plotting to oust Mbeki. In a stunning intervention on the eve of his appearance in London where he will today mark South Africa's seventh ''birthday'' in Trafalgar Square with some of Britain's best known rock stars, Nelson Mandela told the state-run South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC): ''I will not make any conclusions on the claims of a plot to unseat Mr Mbeki. I have the highest regard for the three individuals under investigation. Until they are found 'guilty', I will regard them as innocent.''
Mr Mandela's personal intervention is seen as a public reprimand of the man he chose to succeed him in 1999. Since then , Thabo Mbeki has earned a reputation as an aloof, arrogant and distant leader who is out of touch with ordinary people. His isolation was underscored once again following the staggering and potentially disastrous accusation by Security Minister Steve Tshwete that Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa are being investigated by the police and Mbeki's ''apartheid'' and East German trained secret service. Mbeki faces re-election as ANC President in December next year and there is a growing group within the ANC which wants to see his wings clipped, or the bird replaced altogether.
Said the ''Mail and Guardian'' - '' While trying to give the appearance of standing outside the fray, Mbeki appealed on television for those with knowledge of any plots to come forward with their evidence while on the national broadcaster, the SABC, Steve Tshwete - on the flimsiest of evidence - named three of Mbeki's potential rivals for leadership of the ANC as, allegedly, dangers to the President's life.'' After the release of Nelson Mandela, the unbarring of the ANC, the PAC and the SA Communist Party in 1990 Cyril Ramaphosa and Thabo Mbeki faced each other and fought for the crown of Nelson Mandela. While Ramaphosa enjoyed massive support from township blacks and millions in the trade union movement, Thabo Mbeki was the crown prince designate. The son of former Communist patriarch Govan Mbeki, Sussex University educated Mbeki was popular with whites, big business, Western governments, SA's powerful Anglo American Corporation and the leaders in exile of the ANC. He took over. Ramaphosa went into commerce and industry, earning a vast personal fortune in the process.
The coming struggle for power between Mbeki and Ramaphosa is being carefully watched in Zimbabwe. A leader of the Zimbabwean opposition MDC said in an interview: ''Mbeki is angry with Mugabe for allowing party thugs to attack South African businesses in Harare last week. But Mbeki kept quiet when we called for him to show moral leadership after Mugabe's decision to kill leaders of the opposition and allow his hooligans and thugs to invade white-owned farms. If Mbeki is replaced by someone prepared to raise his or her moral head and look at what's happening in Zimbabwe, well, that would be a welcome development. We're praying it will happen.'' Commented the 'Mail and Guardian':'' The time is long past for members of the ANC to ask themselves whether this is the kind of leadership they want, or that the country needs. A great party is at risk of being turned into the instrument of a man caught up in his own personal rages and with so brittle an ego that he fears evisceration if he retreats on an issue or allows a recognition that he has failed.'' The MDC official - who asked not to be named in case he is beaten up by so-called war veterans: ''For years, we looked to Thabo Mbeki as the one man who could put a muzzle on Mugabe. Now we see that he is the same sort of man - paranoid and power mad. If he is going to round up people who plan to stand against him in the new democratic South Africa, what hope is there?''
Meantime, the British Government is keeping a watchful eye on events in Harare following threats made by Mugabe's now out of control supporters to invade embassies and high commissions ''hostile'' to the Zimbabwean government. War Vets leader, Chenjerai ''Hitler'' Hunzvi declared: ''Our next target will be to deal once and for all with foreign embassies and non-governmental organisations who are funding the opposition MDC.'' Since Britain is regarded as Robert Mugabe's main foreign enemy, there are fears that UK diplomats will be the first to be targeted. Britain Wilson, the Foreign Office Minister responsible for Africa, summoned the Zimbabwean High Commissioner, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi , for a reprimand and warning. Mr Wilson said: ''I told him we were extremely concerned by the threats to target diplomatic missions. We expect Zimbabwe to honour its obligations under the Vienna Convention to protect both staff and property of accredited diplomatic missions in Zimbabwe.''
Between 30,000 to 50,000 Britons are this morning (Sunday) making their way to Trafalgar Square for a huge free concert celebrating seven > years of freedom and democracy in South Africa. Nelson Mandela will be there and the line-up for the mammoth Freedom Day Concert includes The Corrs, Mel B, REM, Dave Stewart, Atomic Kitten, Lenny Henry, African singer Baba Maal, saxophonist and trumpeter Hugh Msakela, Beverley Knight and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.''
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 30 April
ANC seeks damage limitation over Mbeki 'plotters'
Johannesburg - South Africa's ruling African National Congress yesterday embarked on a "damage limitation" exercise to patch over cracks in the movement caused by allegations that three former leading figures were involved in a plot to oust President Thabo Mbeki. Kgalema Motlanthe, the ANC secretary-general, asked the three men, Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Matthews Phosa, to attend a party executive meeting "in a spirit of reconciliation". The three, all once contenders to succeed Nelson Mandela as president, were accused last week by Steve Tshwete, the home affairs minister, of being part of a "plot" to overthrow Mr Mbeki. Newspapers have revealed that the allegations, rejected by the three men, were based solely on affidavits sworn by a discredited former ANC youth leader, James Nkambule, who faces some 70 charges of criminal fraud involving state funds. Mr Mandela said in London that there was no political crisis and he had full confidence in the three men.
From The Star (SA), 20 April
Uganda to pull out of DRC and peace process
Kampala - Uganda, rejecting a damning UN report accusing Kampala of looting minerals in the DRC, is to pull out all of its troops from the country and withdraw from the peace process there. President Yoweri Museveni wrote in the government mouthpiece the Sunday Vision: "I have now decided to recommend to the High Command, the Army Council, the Government and Parliament that Ugandan forces withdraw completely from DRC and also from the Lusaka Process." He did not give a date for the completion of the withdrawal, which had already begun under peace accords signed in Lusaka in 1999, and featured in campaign speeches ahead of his re-election last month. All parties to the peace accord - including Uganda and Rwanda on the side of DRC rebels and Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia backing Kinshasa - had begun withdrawing from front-line positions in the DRC when a panel of experts handed the hard-hitting report to the UN Security Council early this month. The document implicated Uganda and members of Museveni's own family in large-scale looting of DRC resources such as timber, gold, diamonds and other minerals, notably coltan, which is used in high-tech appliances like mobile phones.
Museveni, who described the UN report as "mainly shoddy, malicious and a red herring," promised to ask members of the Ugandan Parliamentary Standing Committee to launch fresh investigations into allegations of looting made against his brother, Major General Salim Saleh, Saleh's wife Jovia and his son Muhoozi. "The three will also be available for interrogation by any international tribunal and if found innocent, we shall demand a full apology from the UN panel," Museveni said. "The panelists excelled in malignment and defamation. They falsely alleged that members of my family such as Saleh, Jovi and Muhoozi are engaged in looting DRC. I have asked all the three for the hundredth time and they have denied," Museveni said. "They picked information from our political enemies in Kampala without bothering to gather evidence to substantiate or reject the lies," Museveni pointed out. Museveni denied, for example, that improper exploitation includes business and trading done in products such as coffee, cattle or tobacco which benefits ordinary DRC people. He also denied that the recent rise in Uganda's gold exports was related to the illegal influx of gold from DRC, claiming instead that it came from recent mining activities within Uganda, as well as gold from Tanzania, the DRC and Sudan as a result of Uganda's liberalisation policies.
In his article, Museveni said he had reached the decision to pull out of the DRC because "our immediate interest of defeating the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels has been achieved." The ADF is a Ugandan rebel group with rear bases in the northeast of the DRC, which has been occupied for more than two years by Ugandan troops and their rebel allies. "However, some Ugandan troops may temporarily remain on the slopes of the Ruwenzori Mountains that straddles DRC's common border with Uganda to mop-up ADF remnants pending the deployment of UN forces," Museveni added. According to Kampala, Uganda has already pulled out about 4 000 troops which it says is more than half its force in the DRC. Deriding the experts who compiled the UN report as "technocrats accustomed to working in air-conditioned rooms," Museveni said: "Experts in what? The experts you need in this region are people with enough experience in combating genocide; fighting for democracy in primitive conditions; experts in liberation wars, not mere accountants from New York."
From The Independent (UK), 30 April
Uganda to pull out of Congo peace plan
In a move that could jeopardise peace moves in Congo, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda yesterday said he would withdraw his remaining troops from the former Zaire and pull out of a United Nations-sponsored initiative to end the two-and-a-half-year war in the huge country. Uganda's threat to pull out of the Lusaka Accords comes in the wake of a UN report suggesting that Ugandans, including members of the president's own family, are looting the minerals-rich Congo. Uganda and Rwanda are backing different rebel groups in the war that the 29-year-old Congo President, Joseph Kabila, has inherited from his late father. Writing in the state-owned Sunday Vision, President Museveni said: "I have now decided to recommend ... that Ugandan forces withdraw completely from Congo and also from the Lusaka process.'' He said his decision was due to "an indifference by the world to the suffering of Africans and ideological confusion by African leaders themselves". President Museveni's decision is most likely to be motivated by fury at the UN looting claims. But some observers believe his move has a strategic founding. It is understood that South Africa - which played a key role in drawing up the Lusaka Accords - believes Uganda's deteriorating relations with neighbouring Rwanda could be leading to war between the two countries. Last week, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda said he would not attend President Museveni's latest inauguration because the Ugandan leader did not come to his. If carried through, President Museveni's withdrawal from the Lusaka framework would upset the power balance in the Congo war at a critical time.