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Daily Archives: May 1, 2008

Zimbabwe opposition appeals for help from divided UN

by Gerard Aziakou*

A top opponent of President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday demanded UN intervention in Zimbabwe in the wake of disputed presidential polls but the Security Council failed to agree on how to respond.
"There must be a call for Mugabe to step down. He's illegitimate. He lost this (March 29) election," Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary general Tendai Biti said. "The UN must guarantee the transition and the security of the new government."
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, 56, claims he defeated the 84-year-old Mugabe in the March 29 presidential poll, based on his party's calculations.
But Mugabe supporters say no candidate won outright and there should be a run-off. No official result has so far been released.
Biti called for a "strong and decisive" resolution from the 15-member Security Council against the Mugabe regime as well as for the dispatch of a UN envoy or fact-finding mission to his country.
"Zimbabwe is basically a war zone, militias have been deployed in every district," he told reporters. "Systematic violence is being unleashed by the state against the people. In every district, torture camps have been set up."
Zimbabwe's UN Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku dismissed the opposition charges as "bullshit."
The council must call for "an immediate cessation of the violence, the demilitarization of the countryside, the demobilization of the militias and the shutting down of torture camps," Biti implored.
He spoke of a "deliberate use of food as a political weapon" in those areas where the the MDC did particularly well during the March 29 polls.
Speaking from Geneva, UN boss Ban Ki-moon said the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe "is very worrisome" and urged the Harare government to immediately release results of the presidential elections.
Biti appealed for UN emergency humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe.
He also suggested Ban send a fact-finding mission similar to the one undertaken by UN envoy Anna Tibaijuka in July 2005 when she reported that Zimbabwe's slum clearance campaign had left 700,000 Zimbabweans homeless and destitute and affected a further 2.4 million.
US deputy ambassador to the UN Alejandro Wolff deplored the fact that the council could not find common ground on how to respond.
"The council is divided," he said.
"There are a number of governments who were quite outspoken about the importance of the council remaining engaged … but there were others who have different views and think that the situation deserves more time and that ultimately it is up for the Zimbabwean people to resolve it themselves," he said.
Biti said the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), which has been trying to mediate an end to the crisis between Mugabe and his opposition, did not have the capacity to do so.
"The (southern African) region is paralyzed between those who are fighting in the people's corner and those that are fighting for the status quo," he said.
He added that UN involvement would "strengthen those positive elements within SADC (referring to Zambia and Botswana) who have been paralyzed by the defenders of the status quo."
He called South African President Thabo Mbeki "the key defender of the status quo," in part due to the solidarity among former liberation movements.
"But behind this facade of revolutionary solidarity, there are real material and political interests that Mr Mbeki seeks to protect," MDC economic analyst Wellington Chadehumba said.
"The problems of Zimbabwe are good business for South Africa. The (Zimbabwe) economy has collapsed. The country can't feed itself so it has become a vast supermarket for South African goods and commodities," he said.
South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, the council president this month, took strong exception to those remarks.
"South Africa is a mediator appointed by the (southern African) region (in Zimbabwe)," he said. "We are hosting up to five million Zimbabwean refugees without asking anybody to help us take care of them."


Two car bombs hit Yemen capital, as soldiers killed in ambush

by Hammoud Mounassar*

Two car bombs exploded yesterday inside the compound of customs headquarters, located next to the Italian embassy in Sanaa, as at least seven soldiers were killed in a rebel ambush in the countryside, officials said.
There were no casualties in the blasts, which happened shortly before offices were due to open in a city that has been plagued by attacks in recent weeks.
The officer, attached to the interior ministry, said bombs had been placed in two cars parked inside the compound of the customs offices and a few dozen metres (yards) from the wall separating it from the embassy.
"The explosions did result in any victims, nor in damage to the customs headquarters," he said.
In Rome, the foreign ministry said it had not received any information suggesting the embassy had been targeted, and Italian news agency Ansa said it appeared as if the target was the customs offices.
In addition to official cars that park there, the compound is also used to store vehicles that have been confiscated by customs.
Security forces immediately cordoned off the sector around the site of the blast in Al-Safia district, which is a residential and a business neighbourhood and which also houses the finance ministry.
The cordon was lifted some two hours after the explosions, and customs officials able to reach their offices.
On April 8, the US embassy in the Yemeni capital announced that it was evacuating all non-essential personnel from the country and a series of recent attacks.
Two days earlier, three rockets had been fired at villas where US oil experts live in Sanaa. No casualties were reported in the attack which was claimed by Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
In March, Al-Qaeda targeted the US embassy in Sanaa in an attack in which a schoolgirl and a policeman were killed and 19 people were wounded.
Militants have carried out several attacks in recent years in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of the terror network's chief Osama bin Laden and one of the poorest countries in the planet.
In October 2000 it targeted American warship the USS Cole off the southern oport of Aden, using a small boat packed with explosives to blow a hole in the side of the vessel, killing 17 American sailors.
Yemen has also been shaken by a Shiite insurgency in its mountainous northwest in which thousands of people have died since 2004.
On Tuesday night, seven soldiers were killed and 20 wounded when a convoy of three troop transports was ambushed by rebels in mountainous Saada province, northwest of the capital, a local official said.
The clashes came as a team of Qatari mediators return to Sanaa today in a fresh bid to help the government and insurgents reach a deal over the implementation of a peace accord agreed in June 2007.
Huthi rebels in the north are fighting to restore the Zaidi imamate, overthrown in a 1962 republican coup in Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries.