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  • Christine Chumbler
    Jan 18, 2002
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      Some amazing pictures of the volcanic eruption in eastern DRC.
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/newsid_1768000/1768012.stm

      *****

      Tanzania announces
      deaths inquiry

      By Christine Otien in Dar es Salaam

      President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania has
      announced the formation of a body to
      investigate the killings of opposition
      demonstrators in Zanzibar.

      The government says that a total of 27 people
      died during a police break up of a political
      demonstration last year.

      Mr Mkapa's announcement of the inquiry
      commission late Wednesday night came as a
      surprise, just 10 days before the first
      anniversary of the deaths.

      Pleased

      People, generally, have expressed pleasure at
      the president's move despite the lateness of
      the setting up of the probing body.

      "He is right to set up this commission up".

      "But I have no
      confidence in (the
      commission) it,
      because the
      government police
      force are responsible
      for those killings".

      "And Mr Mkapa
      appoints the members
      of the commission".

      "Do you think it's going
      to be fair?" asks a Dar
      es Salaam resident.

      He told me that he would like members of the
      opposition parties included in the commission.

      Government cares

      One woman told me that she thinks that the
      president's decision demonstrates that "our
      government cares for the people".

      "At least people will know the truth".

      One group that should be happy with the
      formation of the deaths inquiry commission is
      the Civic United Front (CUF) party.

      Their supporters were the ones who clashed
      with the police during the street violence in
      Zanzibar.

      Reservations

      The CUF chairman, Professor Ibrahim Lipumba,
      explains how the party have received the
      news.

      "It has been received
      very well in that it was
      long overdue".

      "It was agreed in a
      memorandum between
      (the ruling party) CCM
      and CUF that an
      independent commission
      probe the events leading to the killings".

      However, Professor Lipumba has some
      reservations.

      "The only problem I have is the composition of
      the commission".

      "This is a legal matter and should involve legal
      people".

      He points out that where laws have been
      broken legal bodies should deal with the
      matter.

      "But this is not the case with this commission.
      So I am upset about that".

      Contention

      Another issue that is a contention is the
      number of people actually killed.

      The government maintains 27 people died but
      CUF have a different figure.

      Professor Lipumba
      says, "From our reports
      from the communities
      that were affected, we
      think that more than
      70 people died during
      these problems".

      "So that is one area we
      hope the probe team
      will work on - to get to
      the truth".

      The man the President
      has charged with
      heading this commission is retired Brigadier
      General Hashim Mbita.

      His credentials include being a former
      executive secretary of the Liberation
      Committee of the Organisation of African Unity.

      *****

      I'm not sure about the 3rd paragraph in this story but...

      Mugabe walks tall in
      Malawi

      By the BBC's Hilary Andersson

      Malawi is an African Garden of Eden. Every
      afternoon there are spectacular downpours,
      which replenish the long grasses on the lush
      green hills that surround Blantyre.

      The streets of this tiny town are lined with
      giant African trees with branches that lean
      across entire roads giving shade.

      Here people are armed
      not with guns, but
      umbrellas - and you can
      walk around the darkest
      street at night and still
      feel safe.

      It is a fitting retreat for
      Africa's leaders to gather, and talk about the
      violence plaguing the region.

      And the Malawians did all they could to make
      their neighbouring presidents feel welcome.

      Presidential welcome

      If Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, is
      rapidly turning into an international pariah, you
      would never have guessed it.

      When he stepped off the plane, he was
      greeted by rows of Malawian soldiers clad in
      bright red dress uniforms, complete with
      shining silver swords.

      They marched - as
      hundreds of singers
      and dancers sang
      praises and tributes. I
      remembered how much
      in Africa age and
      status really matter.

      Robert Mugabe is seen
      here as one of the
      fathers of African
      politics. He has been in
      power for more than 20
      years - and you can
      tell.

      He walked through the crowds, his face
      hardened into an expression of determination
      and focus. His posture was straight, exuding
      the personality of a man who is not used to
      being questioned or challenged.

      But this was not an easy trip for him. His
      problems began at the opening ceremony, held
      in a huge marquee. The pastor prayed for
      peace in Zimbabwe. Other leaders squeezed
      shut their eyes, but Robert Mugabe, clearly
      uncomfortable, kept his open and his face as
      expressionless as steel.

      And what with all the nerves and ceremony,
      no-one seemed to notice that the beautifully
      disguised podium on which the heads of state
      sat was actually the edge of the hotel
      swimming pool - the press area gallery was
      built on the diving board, and the assembled
      guests sat more or less in the pool itself.

      Sharp exit

      The culture in this part of the world is to talk
      problems out or fight them out - you're either
      friends or enemies. So the question of imposing
      sanctions on Zimbabwe was ruled out from the
      beginning.

      But the leaders met for
      many long hours behind
      closed doors, and -
      undoubtedly to Mr
      Mugabe's horror - the
      situation in Zimbabwe
      was put on the same
      footing as the conflicts
      in Angola and the
      Congo.

      He burst out of the
      summit before anyone
      else, with his band of
      security guards, and
      skipped up the stairs in a gesture of relief that
      it was over at last.

      He was then mobbed by the press. The
      security guards grabbed the BBC cameraman
      by his belt, and held him firmly at arms length,
      whilst their elbows ploughed into our stomachs
      and faces.

      Most of the international press, and the BBC,
      are banned from Zimbabwe. This was a rare
      chance to ask him a question.

      Was Zimbabwe criticised on its human rights
      record, I asked? Britain was criticised by
      Zimbabwe, he snapped back.

      Robert Mugabe has blamed his growing
      international isolation on a colonial-style
      campaign by Britain. That's why any criticism
      by his African brothers was so painful, even if
      it was mild.

      In the end, the summit
      obtained assurances
      from Robert Mugabe of
      free and fair elections,
      and promises to respect
      the rule of law. But no
      mechanism was created
      to make sure the
      promises were kept.

      These promises have been made before, and
      they didn't stop President Mugabe from
      introducing draconian legislation that
      effectively criminalises criticism of him in the
      run-up to the voting - legislation that makes it
      easier for him to win.

      Regional concern

      While the African leaders were pledging their
      allegiance to the principles of democracy, the
      Malawian security forces barged into a hotel in
      Blantyre, and threw four Zimbabwean
      pro-democracy activists into police cells. They
      were deported the very next morning.

      A man very close to Malawi's president
      confided in me casually that he had great
      sympathy for Robert Mugabe, what with the
      opposition threatening to topple him and all.
      And he was pleased the army has weighed in
      on the Zimbabwean president's side.

      Until recently Zimbabwe was an impressive
      country. It had a thriving tourism industry, and
      it fed its own people. Now it is plagued by
      violence, and threatens to disrupt the entire
      region.

      Africa is already a region that's been left
      behind, as the rest of the world forges ahead
      with the technological revolution.

      Its people suffer and its leaders know that one
      of the major reasons for this is political
      instability. But they do not seem prepared to
      do much about it.

      The tragedy in Zimbabwe has awful
      implications for Zimbabweans, but it also sets
      a truly frightening example for the new
      generation of Africa's democratically-elected
      presidents.

      If President Mugabe can get away with
      elections set on his own terms, then why can't
      they?

      *****

      Mugabe charms SADC

      With less than two months to go before the
      elections in Zimbabwe, commentators in the
      African media are not surprised that
      developments in Harare weighed heavily on the
      minds of southern African regional leaders.

      The presidents of the 14-member Southern
      African Development Community (SADC) were
      meeting in Blantyre, Malawi, to try to find
      ways of addressing ongoing insecurity and
      conflict problems the region, particularly the
      civil wars in Angola and the Democratic
      Republic of Congo.

      But with President Robert Mugabe's
      government tabling controversial security
      legislation in parliament as the summit got
      under way, it was perhaps inevitable that
      much of the regional leaders' attention was
      drawn to Zimbabwe.

      The Star, published in Johannesburg, believes
      Mr Mugabe got off lightly with his reassurances
      to his fellow African presidents.

      "We accept that the
      SADC leaders are
      generally honourable
      men," the paper says,
      "but we find ourselves
      very much surprised
      that they have
      accepted Robert
      Mugabe's bona fides."

      Mr Mugabe's promises in Blantyre to ensure full
      respect for human rights and a commitment to
      freedom of expression could "easily be watered
      down."

      "We hope that, come the March 9 and 10
      presidential election in Zimbabwe, the SADC
      leaders don't find themselves with so much egg
      on the face that they can make breakfast for
      the whole world," The Star says.

      Britain, MDC "in cahoots"

      Zimbabwe's pro-government The Herald notes
      that the communique issued after the summit
      "criticised negative media reports on Zimbabwe
      by some sections of the so-called independent
      press in South Africa, Zimbabwe and the
      West."

      "It is apparent that the South Africans and the
      British are working in cahoots with some
      elements in the opposition press in the country
      and those in the MDC," the paper comments.

      In the South African
      capital, the Pretoria
      News has little time for
      what it calls the SADC
      leaders' "bleating
      statement" about
      hostile propaganda and
      negative media reports.

      "Mugabe has a choke
      hold on Zimbabwe's
      electronic media and
      his thugs have actually
      blown up the opposition newspaper's printing
      press," the paper says.

      The passing into law a few days earlier of
      extra security legislation by parliament is
      described by The Daily News in Harare as "a
      dark period in the history of Zimbabwe".

      The Public Order and Security Bill and the
      Access to Information and Protection of
      Privacy Bill are "odious pieces of legislation
      which seek to conspire to deprive
      Zimbabweans of their freedoms," the
      privately-owned newspaper, which is critical of
      the government, comments.

      The new legislation is "an admission by the
      government that it is fast losing the battle of
      continuing to mislead the nation about its
      record."

      "Draconian" media law

      The Financial Gazette, which is critical of the
      government, says the two laws "curtail most
      basic freedoms by giving sweeping powers to
      the security forces".

      Next week, it warns, the government is
      expected to approve "a new draconian law
      seen as silencing Zimbabwe's small but vibrant
      independent media".

      According to the pro-government newspaper
      The Herald, Mr Mugabe told reporters on
      arriving back in Harare from the SADC summit
      that "the whole meeting supported our
      position''.

      That support, the paper
      says, "should put to
      rest all those calling for
      sanctions against
      Zimbabwe and the
      division of the regional
      grouping".

      And the calls for sanctions could even have
      the opposite effect.

      "Zimbabweans have been tried and tested
      before," it argues. "Sanctions will, in fact,
      invoke that spirit of nationalism and unite the
      country in their bid to preserve their hard-won
      independence."

      The "prophets of doom" who had wanted the
      SADC leaders to support sanctions against
      Harare "have been shamed once more".

      SADC "hit for six"

      In South Africa, Jean-Jacques Cornish writing
      in the Pretoria News heard the thwack of
      willow against leather as President Mugabe
      buckled up his shinpads and marched into the
      crease in Blantyre.

      "Arrogant Mugabe hits SADC wimps for a big
      six", he headlines his report.

      Mr Mugabe, he says, is untroubled by the
      British, and put on "a bravura performance at
      the one-day international in Blantyre."

      "He has been bowling them over for decades,"
      the paper says.

      "Only now are they beginning to realise that
      the gentlemen's code known as the laws of
      cricket don't necessarily apply to troubled
      former colonies."

      Last September, it recalls, the Commonwealth
      "learned a bitter lesson" from Mr Mugabe.

      "He looked into the eyes of the people who
      helped put him in power and just plain lied to
      them. The land occupation by so-called war
      veterans would stop, he said. Two days later,
      the promise was broken and the occupations
      resumed. That certainly is not cricket."

      "Small wonder Mugabe walked back to the
      pavilion with a smile."
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