Mnangagwa returns to Zimbabwe after protest crackdown

President Emmerson Mnangagwa cut short his foreign tour after nationwide protests in Zimbabwe were met with a brutal security crackdown. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2019
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Mnangagwa returns to Zimbabwe after protest crackdown

  • ‘I am happy that the country is quiet. Our people should concentrate on their work’
  • Zimbabweans have seen little evidence of the promised economic revival or increased political freedoms

HARARE: Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has landed back in Harare, state television said Tuesday, after cutting short a foreign tour over nationwide protests that were met with a brutal security crackdown.
Police and soldiers launched a large-scale operation against suspected protesters, activists and organizers of the strike last week, which was triggered by a sharp rise in fuel prices.
At least 12 people were killed and 78 treated for gunshot injuries, according to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, which recorded more than 240 incidents of assault and torture.
About 700 people have been arrested.
“I am happy that the country is quiet. Our people should concentrate on their work,” Mnangagwa said after landing late on Monday night. “There are channels of communication. We want Zimbabwe developed.”
The High Court in Harare ruled Monday that government had no powers to order the shutdown of the Internet which was imposed as protests swept across the country.
Handing down judgment in a case brought by human rights lawyers and journalists, judge Owen Tagu said “it has become very clear that the minister had no authority to make that directive.”
Internet and social media appeared to be partially returning to normal on Tuesday morning.
Mnangagwa, who was seeking much-needed foreign investment on his tour, scrapped plans to attend the Davos summit of world leaders this week.
He had visited Russia, Belarus and Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan before cutting his trip short.
Mnangagwa, 76, had pledged a fresh start for the country when he came to power in November 2017 after Robert Mugabe was toppled, ending 37 years in office that were marked by authoritarian rule and economic collapse.
But Zimbabweans have seen little evidence of the promised economic revival or increased political freedoms.
The UN human rights’ office criticized the government’s reaction to the protests.
The violent demonstrations erupted on January 14 after Mnangagwa announced petrol prices would more than double in a country that suffers daily shortages of banknotes, fuel, food and medicine.
He flew to Russia soon after making that announcement in a televised address to the nation.
Accused of conducting a deadly crackdown on dissent, the army and police denied any wrongdoing, saying some assailants raiding homes were wearing official uniforms to pose as security personnel.
Mugabe, now 94, ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist from independence from Britain in 1980 until 14 months ago.
The military, fearing that Mugabe’s wife Grace was being lined up to succeed him, seized control and forced him to resign before ushering Mnangagwa to power.


Russia’s Port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

Updated 19 April 2019
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Russia’s Port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

  • Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok
  • Proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected in Russia’s far-eastern port Vladivostok in the coming days, according to reports that have prompted excitement and concern among local residents.
After weeks of speculation, the Kremlin announced that Kim will visit Russia to hold his first talks with President Vladimir Putin in late April. It gave no details on a date or place, citing “security reasons.”
Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok, home to Moscow’s Pacific Fleet.
The port lies only about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Russia’s short border with North Korea. This proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train.
The 35-year-old will be following in the footsteps of his father Kim Jong Il, who met the newly elected Putin in Vladivostok in 2002.
The far eastern city rarely sees major international events, and some locals are happy for the city to be in the spotlight.
“Any visit is good, whether it’s an enemy or a friend,” said Danil, a student at Vladivostok’s Far Eastern Federal University, billed by the media as a possible venue for the summit.
He welcomed the talks, saying “you can only make decisions through dialogue and communication.”
Nadezhda, a native of the city, said it will be a global event and “will be a boost for development in our city.”
Authorities this week were busy cleaning garbage near railways leading to the city, Russian media reported.
“The depressing view from the train window does not give a positive impression to guests of Vladivostok arriving by train,” an official from the local branch of Russian Railways told the Interfax news agency.
Nadezhda said she was “absolutely not afraid of (North Korea’s) nuclear program” and would like to see the country.
North Korea said this week it was testing nuclear weapons after a round of talks with the US ended in failure.
But Anna Marinina was less enthusiastic about the summit, and said that if Pyongyang did use its weapons, Vladivostok would be in the firing line.
“The people that panic the most about North Korea are safe on the other side of the ocean,” she said.
“If something were to happen, it would fall on us.”
Putin has long said he was ready to meet with Kim and is preparing to play a bigger role in nuclear negotiations with Moscow’s Cold War-era ally.
The last meeting between Russian and North Korean heads of state was in 2011, when Kim’s father traveled by train to Siberia, where he took a boat ride on Lake Baikal and held tightly guarded talks with then president Dmitry Medvedev.
There is a chance however that fresh talks will not take place at all, as Kim pulled out of 2015 celebrations in Moscow for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the last minute.