Army, new human rights problem child for Zimbabwe – rights group

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By Leopold Munhende

ZIMBABWE’s military has become the new “problem child” in the fight to entrench human rights in the country, a rights watchdog has said.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO-Forum, on Tuesday said while over the years the police have been identified as the major perpetrator of rights abuses, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rise to power had presented a new challenge in the form of the military.

Speaking at the launch of ZimHRNGOForum’s Anti Impunity report in Harare, the group’s director Blessing Gorejena said that the army was now a major factor in the state’s continued disregard for basic human rights.

“Initially our focus was on the police because from our documentation, until recently, they were the major perpetrators but we are actually realising that we have a new ‘problem child’ on the block. It is the military given the incidences we have just encountered recently.

“Security services should remain true to their obligations under the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” said Gorejena.

Mnangagwa came to power on the back of a military coup in November 2017 that forced former President Robert Mugabe into resignation. Since then the country’s military has become a lot more visible than ever in people’s daily lives involving itself in civilian matters.

In less that a year, Mnangagwa has deployed the army on two occasion both with deadly consequences. At least 20 people have been killed after the army was called in to pacify protests in Harare while dozens have been left with gunshot wounds.

After the August 1st killings, Mnangagwa, in a bid to placate growing unease with his new administration established a Commission of Inquiry, headed by former South African President, Kgalema Motlanthe. The recommendations by Motlanthe are yet to be implemented.

In January Mnangagwa announced a 150% fuel price increase triggering fresh protests. The army was called in and human rights groups claim at least 17 people were killed to add to the six gunned down last August.