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'Military coup' in Zimbabwe as Mugabe is forced to cede power to generals

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article4092858.ece June 9, 2008 Military coup in Zimbabwe as Mugabe is forced to cede power to generals
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 9, 2008

      June 9, 2008
      'Military coup' in Zimbabwe as Mugabe is forced to
      cede power to generals
      Shadowy politburo instigates campaign of terror

      Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent

      The campaign of terror sweeping Zimbabwe is being
      directly organised by a junta that took over the
      running of the country after Robert Mugabe’s shock
      election defeat in March.

      Details of the organised violence are contained in a
      report released today by Human Rights Watch,
      corroborated by senior Western diplomats who describe
      the situation in Zimbabwe as a “military coup by

      The human-rights group and the diplomats name
      Zimbabwe’s effective rulers as the Joint Operations
      Command, a shadowy security politburo made up of
      military and police generals, senior intelligence
      officers, prison service officials and leaders of the
      ruling Zanu (PF) party.

      The report maps a chain of command leading down from
      the JOC to senior officers responsible for individual
      regions, and the local politicians and so-called “war
      veterans” and Zanu (PF) youth militias who carry out
      much of the violence as a proxy military force.

      The report said that the scale of the attacks exceeds
      anything seen previously during Zimbabwe’s long
      history of electoral violence, and that for the first
      time militias are being armed with weapons such as
      AK47s, hand-guns and rifles. They have also used
      military transportation and even attacked from
      military bases.

      A senior Western diplomat traced the military takeover
      to the days after the March 29 election, when a
      stunned Mr Mugabe was preparing to stand down before
      the generals moved in. “The generals didn’t let him
      go,” the diplomat said. “Afraid that Mr Mugabe’s
      departure would expose them to prosecution, they
      struck a deal guaranteeing his reelection.

      “This is a military coup by stealth,” the diplomat
      said. “There are no tanks on people’s lawns, but the
      Joint Operations Command runs this country.”

      The military takeover has meant an explosion in the
      level of violence in Zimbabwe, as well as the de facto
      militarisation of food distribution prompted by last
      week’s ban on aid agencies.

      Witnesses interviewed by HRW identified numerous
      senior security officers who report directly to the
      JOC as being involved personally in the violence,
      suggesting they are carrying out orders from above.
      Police involved in the attack on American and British
      diplomats last week were quoted as saying that their
      orders came “directly from the top”. Documents leaked
      by disgruntled army officers name 200 of them, each
      assigned an area to oversee in
      OperationMakavhoterapapi? or Operation Where Did You
      Put Your Vote?, a campaign to punish those who voted
      for the Movement for Democratic Change, particularly
      in traditional Zanu (PF) strongholds, and to prevent
      them from voting in the June 27 presidential run-off
      when Mr Mugabe goes head to head with Morgan
      Tsvangirai, the opposition leader.

      The use of the “war veterans” and youth militias as
      proxy forces was intended to cover up the State’s role
      in the violence. But in many cases documented by HRW,
      military involvement was explicit. Scores of attacks
      in Harare and surrounding townships have been carried
      out by uniformed soldiers. One victim described armed
      soldiers going from house to house in the township of
      Chitungwiza searching for MDC supporters and beating
      them: “I did not know my assailants, but they were in
      army uniform and drove an army truck. They were
      boasting of being given a three-day assignment to
      ‘bring hell’ to the people.”

      Army officers have been personally involved in a
      number of “reeducation” meetings at which local
      residents are forced to renounce opposition and swear
      allegiance to the ruling party after being beaten and
      tortured. Beatings at such meetings account for at
      least eight deaths. The Army has denied any
      involvement in the violence.

      The extent of Mr Mugabe’s acquiescence to the terror
      tactics remains unclear, but the moment he agreed to
      stay on, the diplomat notes: “Mr Mugabe became
      beholden to the generals to stay in power.”

      Searching for the truth

      — Human Rights Watch was founded in 1978 as Helsinki
      Watch, to monitor the compliance of Soviet bloc
      countries with the Helsinki accords

      — After growing to cover other regions in the 1980s,
      the various committees were united in 1988 as Human
      Rights Watch

      — The charity, whose home is New York, is the largest
      US-based human-rights organisation

      — Human Rights Watch shared the Nobel Peace Prize in
      1997 for a joint campaign with other organisations to
      ban landmines

      — Fact-finding teams visit countries where there have
      been allegations of human rights abuses. They visit
      the locations of abuse, interview victims, witnesses
      and others. The teams publish their findings in books
      and reports

      — Researchers collected and corroborated stories of
      refugees from Kosovo and Chechnya, helping to shape
      the response of the international community to rights
      abuses there
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