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

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.


11 million North Koreans are undernourished: UN investigator

Quintana said collective farming and the failure to allow farmers to benefit from individual plots of land is further exacerbating food insecurity. (AFP)
Updated 32 min 48 sec ago

11 million North Koreans are undernourished: UN investigator

  • The resumption of Mt Kumgang tours has been repeatedly mentioned as a possibility by South Korean President Moon Jae-in in recent years

UNITED NATIONS: Food insecurity in North Korea “is at an alarming level,” with nearly half the population — 11 million people — undernourished, the UN independent investigator on human rights in the country said Tuesday.
Tomas Ojea Quintana told the General Assembly’s human rights committee that 140,000 children are estimated to be suffering from “undernutrition,” including 30,000 who “face an increased risk of death.”
Quintana said the government, which has primary responsibility for ensuring access to food, “is violating its human rights obligations due to its failing economic and agricultural policies.”
In addition, he said, “climate conditions, infertile land, natural disasters and the negative impact of sanctions have contributed to further food insecurity.”
More broadly, Quintana said he has seen no improvement in North Korea’s human rights situation during his three years as special rapporteur.
“The country’s economic resources are being diverted away from the essential needs of the people,” he said. “Pervasive discrimination in the public distribution system means that ordinary citizens, especially farmers and people in rural areas, have not been receiving any rations.”
Quintana said collective farming and the failure to allow farmers to benefit from individual plots of land is further exacerbating food insecurity.
“At the same time, the government has failed to put in place conditions where people can securely engage in trade and exchange in marketplaces without facing criminalization, extortion and other forms of abuse,” he said. Nonetheless, he added, the vast majority of North Koreans “are now engaged in such market activity for their survival.”
Ironically, he said, the government’s failure to regulate nascent market activity is creating increasing inequality based on wealth, “where only those with money have access to basic rights such as education, health care, freedom of movement and adequate housing.”
Quintana said severe restrictions on basic freedoms continue to be widespread, including surveillance and close monitoring of civilians.
“North Korean people continue to live in the entrenched fear of being sent to a political prison camp,” called a kwanliso, he said.
“If you are considered to be a spy of the hostile countries or a traitor, when in reality you are simply exercising your basic human rights, you can be suddenly taken by agents of the Ministry of State Security to a kwanliso and never be seen again,” Quintana said. “Suspects’ families are never informed of the decisions or of the whereabouts of their relatives.”
On the issue of North Koreans who have fled to China, Quintana said in the past six months he has received information from family members living in South Korea of an increasing number of these escapees being detained in China.
He said any North Korean who escapes should not be forcibly returned because there are substantial grounds they would be tortured or subjected to other human rights violations.
“I appreciate the government of China’s increased engagement with me on this concern, and I hope that this will lead to greater compliance with international standards,” he said.
Quintana said North Korea has accepted 132 recommendations from other UN member states, including one “to grant immediate, free and unimpeded access to international humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to the most vulnerable groups, including prisoners.” He said this could lead to the first international access to places of detention, “and could therefore be an opportunity to improve prison conditions.”