- Jan 18, 2002Some amazing pictures of the volcanic eruption in eastern DRC.
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.
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
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.
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
The CUF chairman, Professor Ibrahim Lipumba,
explains how the party have received the
"It has been received
very well in that it was
"It was agreed in a
(the ruling party) CCM
and CUF that an
probe the events leading to the killings".
However, Professor Lipumba has some
"The only problem I have is the composition of
"This is a legal matter and should involve legal
He points out that where laws have been
broken legal bodies should deal with the
"But this is not the case with this commission.
So I am upset about that".
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.
says, "From our reports
from the communities
that were affected, we
think that more than
70 people died during
"So that is one area we
hope the probe team
will work on - to get to
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
If President Mugabe can get away with
elections set on his own terms, then why can't
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
men," the paper says,
"but we find ourselves
very much surprised
that they have
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
That support, the paper
says, "should put to
rest all those calling for
Zimbabwe and the
division of the regional
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
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
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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