RAPAPORT… BBC, HARARE: President Robert Mugabe defended his security forces against charges of human rights violations and praised the army and police crackdown against illegal diamond miners in eastern Zimbabwe that critics say left a trail of rights abuses and other crimes. In an address marking Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day, Mugabe accused Western governments and groups of seeking to blemish Zimbabwe’s name by falsely claiming that security forces had committed human rights abuses.
“Allegations of gross abuses of human rights and failure to observe good governance have provided fodder for the West and its media as they repeatedly seek blemishes to stick onto our country,” Mugabe told a gathering comprising mostly members of the uniformed forces. Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister, who has an uneasy relationship with the army and police top brass, also attended the ceremony.
“The defense forces were also deployed to various strategic national resource areas such as gold and diamond mineral fields, where they have assisted in eradicating the illegal panning and illicit dealings [in the minerals],” said Mugabe, referring to the notorious Marange diamond fields in the rural east of the country. Soldiers and police sent out last year to flush out illegal diamond diggers and dealers from the Marange fields also known as Chiadzwa are accused of assaulting, torturing and in some cases killing scores of innocent villagers. With illegal miners forced out of Marange, top security commanders and powerful officials of Mugabe’s ZANU PF party are accused of taking over the illegal mining of diamonds from the fields, which they allegedly smuggle out of the country to the international black market for gemstones.
A team sent by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to probe reports of human rights abuses at Marange confirmed the reports in an interim report released in June, which called for a six-month international ban on trade in diamonds from Zimbabwe. International rights watchdogs such as Human Rights Watch and Global Witness have also called for a ban on Zimbabwe diamonds.
But Mugabe, who on Monday said Zimbabwe may have to reconsider its relations with the West, dismissed charges of rights violations as lies spread by “our detractors, as they have sought desperately and without good reason to find wrongdoing on our part.” The veteran leader reiterated charges that the West wants to interfere with Zimbabwe’s internal politics and to divide and weaken the unity government in Harare.
Mugabe praised the defense forces for safeguarding Zimbabwe’s “national territorial integrity, national sovereignty and national interest, in line with their constitutional obligation.” Zimbabwe’s army and police are credited with keeping Mugabe in power after waging a ruthless campaign of violence last year to force Tsvangirai from a second-round presidential election, which analysts had strongly favored the former opposition leader to win.
Tsvangirai had beaten Mugabe in the first-round ballot, but failed to achieve outright victory to avoid the second-round runoff poll. The former foes eventually bowed to pressure from southern African leaders to agree to form a government of national unity, which, analysts say, offers Zimbabwe the best opportunity to end its multifaceted crisis. But the government’s inability to convince Western donor nations to provide direct financial support could hamper the government’s reconstruction programs, while doubts remain over its long-term effectiveness, given the mistrust that persists between ZANU PF and Tsvangirai’s MDC parties, the main pillars of the administration.
(c) 2009 BBC Monitoring Service , Source: The Financial Times Limited
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