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Red flag over army role

By Staff Reporter

TWO American institutions that observed last year’s harmonised elections say they are worried about the military’s involvement in putting down protests and its involvement in government operations.

The International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute last year said the elections that saw President Emmerson Mnangagwa narrowly beating MDC leader Nelson Chamisa failed to meet the democratic test.

Former US assistant secretary of state for African Affairs Jonnie Carson, who led the Zimbabwe International Election Observation Mission, and his delegation were back in the country last week where they met various stakeholders.

On Friday, Carson told journalists that they were concerned about the way recent protests were handled.

“The delegation heard multiple concerns about the role of the military in putting down public demonstrations and its expanding influence in government operations,” the delegation said in a statement.

“Citizen groups expressed deep concern about the violence that transpired on January 14 in which the security forces reportedly used excessive force to break up demonstrations of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

“It is reported that at least 17 civilians were killed, more than a dozen women were raped or sexually assaulted and up to 1 055 people were detained.”

The organisations condemned the “violent and politically motivated attacks on civilians and the sustained intimidation of pro-democracy activists, opposition party leaders and their supporters based on their political beliefs contravenes protections within the constitution.”

“We urge the government to respect and protect the rights of citizens to peacefully assemble and to carry out lawful political activities,” the organisations added.

“Opposition protesters should also carry out their activities in accordance to the law.”

They said insufficient government investigations and adjudication for the perpetrators of violence had undermined public confidence in the government’s willingness to take action against those who engage in political violence.

“The delegation heard reports of low levels of trust in government institutions due to insufficient public outreach and systematic intimidation of opposition and civil society activists,” the statement added.

‘Mismanagement of public funds and poor governance marked by inflation, currency instability, and shortages of fuel, food and medicines were also issues that were brought to the attention of the delegation. These serious issues overshadowed many of the positive actions taken by the government since the 2018 harmonised elections.”

They urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and government “to address the fundamental deficit in the democratic space”.

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