Zimbabwe president to return home after deadly turmoil

Police patrol in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 20, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 January 2019
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Zimbabwe president to return home after deadly turmoil

  • A year of troubles in which his administration failed to improve the collapsed economy, narrowly won a disputed election and violently put down anti-government protests has caused widespread concern

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe’s president announced on Sunday that he will return home and skip the World Economic Forum after a week of turmoil in which activists have said at least a dozen people have been killed in a government crackdown.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa had been under growing pressure to come home from a two-week overseas visit as accounts emerged of abuses by security forces, including dozens of people wounded by gunfire and others hunted down in their homes and severely beaten.
Zimbabwe has seen days of unrest since Mnangagwa made an announcement more than doubling fuel prices that made the struggling country’s gasoline the most expensive in the world.
Mnangagwa in his Twitter post didn’t mention the violence, saying only that he is returning “in light of the economic situation.”
The first priority, he said, “is to get Zimbabwe calm, stable and working again.”
At Davos, he planned to appeal for foreign investment and loans to the southern African nation, but the visit had been expected to be a challenge. His Davos visit a year ago came shortly after he took over from longtime, repressive leader Robert Mugabe, a move cheered by Zimbabweans and the international community.
A year of troubles in which his administration failed to improve the collapsed economy, narrowly won a disputed election and violently put down anti-government protests has caused widespread concern.
Growing frustration over rising inflation, a severe currency crisis and fuel lines that stretch for miles finally snapped after Mnangagwa announced the fuel price increase.
Civic leaders called for Zimbabweans to stay at home for three days in protest. Other people took to the streets. Some looted, in desperation or anger. The military was called in, and with Mnangagwa overseas, the hard-line former military commander and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga was left in charge. A crackdown began.
More than 600 people have been arrested, among them a prominent pastor and activist, Evan Mawarire, who has supported peaceful protests on social media and now faces a possible 20 years in prison on a subversion charge. More than 400 people have been denied bail, said his lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa. She said she will apply for bail at the High Court Monday. She said described the case against Mawarire as a “travesty of justice.”
Mawarire has called it “heartbreaking” to see the new government acting like that of former leader Mugabe, who stepped down under military pressure in late 2017 and was succeeded by former protege Mnangagwa.
In what critics have called an attempt to cover up abuses, the government in the past few days has imposed an Internet shutdown across the country. On Monday, the High Court will hear a case challenging the Internet restrictions. Although access to the Internet is back, social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp are still blocked.
Jacob Mafume, spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, said Mnangagwa’s return “was long overdue, in the first place he was not supposed to travel abroad when the country was burning from the economic and political crisis. ... However, we don’t have confidence that his return will solve anything unless he opens lines of communication. What is needed is political dialogue but Mnangagwa has been avoiding us.”
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference last week lamented the government’s “intolerant handling of dissent” and its failure to halt economic collapse, concluding that “our country is going through one of the most trying periods in its history.”


France snubs Trump’s appeal to repatriate Daesh fighters en masse, for now

Updated 4 min 27 sec ago
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France snubs Trump’s appeal to repatriate Daesh fighters en masse, for now

  • US-backed fighters appear poised to capture Daesh’s last enclave in Syria
  • French government policy had been to categorically refuse to take back Daesh fighters and their wives
PARIS: France will for now not act on US President Donald Trump’s call for European allies to repatriate hundreds of Daesh fighters from Syria, taking back militants on a “case-by-case” basis, its justice minister said on Monday.
US-backed fighters appear poised to capture Daesh’s last enclave in Syria and Trump on Saturday pressed France, Britain and Germany to bring home more than 800 captured Daesh fighters and put them on trial.
Trump has sworn to pull US forces from Syria after Daesh’s territorial defeat, raising concerns in Paris and other European capitals that militants from their countries could disperse and try to return to their home countries.
“There is a new geo-political context, with the US withdrawal. For the time being we are not changing our policy,” Belloubet told France 2 television. “At this stage France is not responding to (Trump’s) demands.”
French government policy had been to categorically refuse to take back fighters and their wives. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian referred to them as “enemies” of the nation who should face justice either in Syria or Iraq.
But the prospect of the United States’ withdrawal from Syria has forced France to prepare for the return of dozens of French militants held by US-backed Kurdish authorities, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner acknowledged in late January.
Paris is already trying to repatriate minors on a case-by-case basis.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are holding about 150 French citizens in northeastern Syria, including 50 adults, military and diplomatic sources say.
Germany, too, was cool toward Trump’s demands, saying it could only take back Daesh fighters if the suspects had consular access.