Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called violence by the country’s security forces “unacceptable and a betrayal” following deadly protests last week sparked by a sharp fuel price hike.
Mnangagwa’s comments were his first on the strife which has wracked Zimbabwe for over a week, during which the President was largely absent. He arrived back in Harare Tuesday from Switzerland, where he had been due to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting.
“One week ago I announced measures to stabilize our nation’s crucial fuel supply. I was aware that these measures may not be popular, and this was not a decision we took lightly. But it was the right thing to do,” Mnangagwa said on Twitter.
“What followed was regrettable and tragic. Everyone has the right to protest, but this was not a peaceful protest. Wanton violence and cynical destruction; looting police stations, stealing guns and uniforms; incitement and threats of violence. This is not the Zimbabwean way.”
He added that “violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe. Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated. Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll.”
The leader, who last year replaced longtime strongman Robert Mugabe, returned early from the annual jamboree in the Swiss alpine resort town of Davos.
He left his Minister of Finance, Mthuli Ncube, to continue bilateral trade talks and investment meetings and he took a more hardline stance on the protests, saying they were not over the price hike but were “pre-planned.” In an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, he said: “What triggered the rebellion in the streets was not the fuel price, this was pre-planned.”
Ncube added that there was already was a “groundswell and this was just one of the issues that was added on.”
Protests started last week after the government announced a 150% fuel price hike, and quickly turned violent amid a fierce clampdown by security forces.
At least five people were shot by police and another 25 wounded during battles with protesters in the Zimbabwean capital. Human rights organizations blamed the police and the army for the violence.
Sheila Matindike of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission said police officers used live rounds on protestors.
“At least eight deaths have been reported to the commission and mostly attributed to use of live ammunition,” she said at a media conference in the capital, Harare.
“Whilst the police officers in charge were not forthcoming with their side of the story, the verified facts raise a lot of question around the crowd control capacity of the law enforcement agents,” Matindike said.
“They seem to resort to use of brute, excessive and disproportionate force in most circumstances thereby causing avoidable loss of life and also worsening the situation,” she added.
Zimbabwe’s minister of state for national security, Owen Ncube, confirmed last week there were casualties but blamed nongovernmental organizations, and other individuals working with the opposition group MDC Alliance for instigating the violence.
As the protests raged, the country’s internet was cut off, with many Zimbabweans unable to access social media or check the news for updates on the protests.
On Monday, Japhet Moyo, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions — which has been involved in organizing the protests — was arrested at Harare’s main airport on Monday and faces charges of subversion.
Moyo was not aware that he was wanted by the police, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights spokesman Tinashe Mundawarara told CNN.
His union was one of the main groups calling for a general strike after the announcement of the massive fuel price hike in Zimbabwe.
Also on Monday, the country’s High Court ruled that mobile operators should restore unrestricted access to mobile and internet services immediately, following a days-long blackout.
Judge Owen Tagu told the court that it had “become very clear that the minister has no authority to make the directive” and ordered mobile operators to “unconditionally resume the provision of the full and unrestricted services to all subscribers forthwith.”
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa joins a growing list of world leaders who will not be in attendance at Davos.
US President Donald Trump decided the US delegation would remain at home and British Prime Minister Theresa May canceled her visit to focus on the UK’s Brexit plan.
French President Emmanuel Macron — who, like Mnangagwa, is trying to quell violent street protests — is also skipping the forum. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also be absent.
Senate to convene security summit
The gruesome murder of the daughter of Afenifere leader, Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, was hotly debated in the Senate Tuesday. Senators took turns to point a way out of increasing insecurity in parts of the country. At the end of the debate, the upper chamber resolved to hold a national security conference to address security challenges facing the country.
The resolution followed a Point of Order on the murder of Mrs. Olakunrin on Friday by gunmen in Ondo State along Ore-Benin Expressway.
Senator Ayo Akinyelure (Ondo central) who raised the Point of Order expressed regret over the death of Mrs. Olakunrin.
The Ondo Central senator feared that with the mounting security challenges, foreign investors would be scared of the country.
The proposed security summit is coming about 17 months after the Senate held a similar conference to address security challenges.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said that the security conference would be held in conjunction with the Executive arm of Government.
Deputy Senate leader, Senator Robert Ajayi Boroffice, in his contribution to the Point of Order, said:
“It is unfortunate that her life was taken abruptly at her prime. I use this opportunity to express my condolence to the family.
“What has happened is not a targeted killing; it is a chance occurrence that could happen to any of us. All this has done is to heighten the insecurity.
“We all have a role to play to ensure this abnormality is restored. What I will not like to subscribe to is that this has been perpetrated by a certain group.
“From the various reports we have received in this chamber, Ibos have been killed, Yorubas have been killed, Hausas have been killed and Fulanis have been killed.
“So we must not succumb to the insinuation that what is happening is being perpetrated by a particular ethnic group. About two weeks ago there was a kidnapping in the creeks of the riverine area of Ondo State.
“The perpetrators were arrested and were found to be an indigene of the state. So I want to plead that we approach this with maturity.
“We should urge the security agencies to find a lasting solution to this problem. The vice president when he visited Ondo State suggested the establishment of community policing which I think would help in minimizing the menace of kidnapping, and these killings.
“I am sure we would all agree that those who are involved if they have good jobs if they have meaningful means of employment they may not be involved in these nefarious activities.
“Government also has to address the problem of employment which is a major issue.”
On his own, Senator Tolu Odebiyi (Ogun West) said: “I am angry because we have come here several times to deliberate on how Nigerians are being killed left and right.
“I grief over these killings because the family that lost their daughter is close to me.
“More importantly, we cannot just sit and watch how Nigerians who go about their lawful businesses are being killed left and right be it by hoodlums, be it by bandits, whoever they are.
“We have to demand action by security forces, we have to demand action from the presidency, we need to stand up and find a solution to this problem.
“There is nothing that we do here that tells if we don’t get our security situation right in this country.
“Only last week we discussed here the issue of the Continental Free Trade Agreement and all to my surprise Ghana has now been made as headquarters of this continental free trade Agreement.
“This is a major loss for this country, economically it has a major impact and these are the implications that happen when you don’t get your security situation right.
Jonathan wants technology used in fighting insecurity
Former President Goodluck Jonathan has called for the deployment of new technology to confront the insecurity in the country.
He called for the establishment of a special unit similar to that of anti-graft agencies – Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) – to manage kidnapping and terrorism-related issues.
Dr. Jonathan spoke in Akure, the Ondo State capital, where he condoled with elder statesmen Chief Reuben Fasoranti on the death of his daughter, Mrs. Funke Olakunri.
The former president described Mrs. Olakunri’s death as “painful”.
Dr. Jonathan said: “We know we will all die and it does not respect age. But the circumstances of death matters so much. Particularly in this particular case, it is quite a painful incident.
“Every generation of human beings faces problems and that generation must find ways of solving that problem. Every government faces some unique problems.
“Insecurity has been with us immediately after the civil war. That was the first time we experienced armed robbery in Lagos. From armed robbery, it graduated to kidnapping.
“The first major kidnapping I describe as commercial kidnapping because some money exchanged hands which happened in 2006 when I was also a governor of Bayelsa State.
“From commercial kidnapping, it moved to terrorism in the North and now, some kind of terrorist attacks all over the country, when people just jump into the road and spray bullets on innocent people; that is a terror attack. You have no reason to attack somebody you don’t even know; that is terrorism.
“It is now a major problem to the country and my belief is that the Federal Government working with the state government must design a different approach.
“I was there as a president for some time; security challenges were there with me. I also inherited some. But it is getting worse every day. And we cannot continue to use the same old method.
“As security operatives, the police, the SSS, the armed forces, we must deploy technology and I believe if the Federal Government will need to set up a special unit, just like we set up EFCC and ICPC to handle specific issues of corruption, they will know that their total responsibility is to manage this issue of kidnapping and terrorist attacks on people going on the road or going to the farm.
Herdsmen kill daughter of Afenifere leader
The daughter of 93 year old Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the national leader of the Pan Yoruba Socio- Political group, Afenifere.
Mrs Funke Olakunrin was yesterday shot dead by suspected Fulani herdsmen along Benin/Ore expressway.
She was said to be traveling along Benin/Ore expressway when she, along with others, ran into the barricade mounted by the suspected Fulani herdsmen. The herdsmen have been terrorizing motorists along the Benin/ Ore highway in recent times.
Report has it that an eyewitness said that the 58-year-old died of gunshot wounds. According to the eyewitness, Olakunrin was suspectedly shot by Fulani herdsmen at Ore junction in Ondo State earlier on Friday.
The assailants wanted to kidnap her alongside other occupants of the vehicle. Reports had it that the suspected herdsmen abducted one of the occupants of the vehicle. The deceased however was unlucky as she was shot dead by the suspects.
Meanwhile, a former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, has reacted to the killing. “This is the final straw. The Yoruba MUST act NOW. We must defend our people!”
Osinbajo charges armed forces
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has urged military officers to take pride in defending the country as they take pride in adorning their beautiful uniform. He said the military career, which is meant to defend the territorial integrity of the country, is the most civic service to the nation.
The Vice-President noted that it is beyond just earning a salary and getting a chance to wear the coveted uniform.
Osinbajo said it is about putting their lives on the line for the safety and welfare of millions of Nigerians.
The Vice-President stated this as the Reviewing Officer at the passing out parade of 187 new officers who were commissioned at this year’s Direct Short Service Course 28 at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Base in Kaduna.
He told the new military officers that Nigeria was still grappling with several security challenges.
He said: “As you already know, this profession you have chosen requires absolute discipline, loyalty, and hard work. It is much more than just securing a job or earning a salary. It is more than just getting the chance to wear a coveted uniform or wield coveted weapons.
“This is the ultimate form of civic service to defend the territorial integrity of your country and to put your life on the line for the safety and welfare of millions of your countrymen and women. There is no nobler occupation than this one you have chosen.”
“You are passing out at a time our nation is grappling with an insurgency in the Northeast and the challenges of kidnapping and armed banditry in other parts of the country. You will, therefore, have come to terms with the fact that the days and weeks and months ahead of you will be extremely busy as you fulfil your responsibilities to the military and the nation.
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