Kinshasa, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — The Ministry of Humanitarian Action and National Solidarity says that at least 50 people have been killed after a train derailed overnight in Congo's southeast Tanganyika province.
Steve Mbikayi told The Associated Press Thursday that the derailment also injured 23 others near the Mayibaridi locality and the toll may climb as people are still under the train and must be rescued. He said the government is sending rescue workers to the scene.
The cause of the accident is not yet known, but there are often derailments due to the cost of maintaining railways and trains. Workers from the national railway company say they have several years of unpaid wages.
Harare, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — Robert Mugabe will be buried at a hilltop shrine reserved exclusively for Zimbabwe's ruling elite, an official said Saturday, as the southern African nation began several days of official mourning.
No date for the funeral has been set, and it's not clear when Mugabe's body will arrive from Singapore, where he died Friday.
Mugabe, who was 95, will be buried at the National Heroes Acre, which has been set aside for Zimbabweans who have made huge sacrifices during the war against white-minority rule and who dedicated themselves to the nation, which emerged from the ashes of colonial Rhodesia.
"We don't have the date yet," deputy information minister Energy Mutodi said. "That is still in the hands of the family and the president, but comrade Mugabe will be buried at the Heroes Acre. That is where he deserves to rest."
Located on a hilltop, and built with the help of North Korean architects, the plot has a commanding view of Harare, features a huge bronze statue of three guerrilla fighters and boasts black marble and granite flourishes.
Mugabe is viewed by many as a national hero despite decades of rule that left the country struggling. He was an ex-guerrilla chief who took power in 1980 when Zimbabwe shook off white minority rule and presided for decades while economic turmoil and human rights violations eroded its early promise.
Mugabe had been forced to relinquish power by a previously loyal military in November 2017.
Flags flew at half-staff Saturday, but there were no public activities to mark the death of a man who singularly shaped the once-prosperous country in his own image and created a repressive system that some say remains even today.
Reaction to his death was mixed, although praise ironically came mostly from ruling party officials and military leaders.
The state-run Herald newspaper, which vilified Mugabe when he was forced to resign and when he subsequently voiced support for the opposition, carried glowing tributes.
In a "commemorative edition," the newspaper, which often acts as a mouthpiece of the government, carried a montage of his pictures with the headline: "Robert Mugabe-1924-2019" on its front page and glowing reports throughout.
In an editorial page, the newspaper praised Mugabe for "his uncompromising stance when it came to the rights of Africans."
"Whatever happened towards the end of his leadership should not be used to rubbish the good things that he did during his life," the commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces and one of the commanders who led the military campaign to oust Mugabe after years of propping his rule, was quoted as saying in a separate story in the newspaper.
Others were less charitable. "95 and out," read the privately-owned Newsday newspaper.
"Despite his intellectual prowess, Mugabe's failure to let go of power when it was time was his major undoing . In short, he was a liberator who turned villain. Leaders need to know when to draw the line," said the newspaper in an editorial.
"End of an era as Mugabe dies, leaves Zim poor, divided," read the front page headline of another privately-owned newspaper, the Daily News.
"Notwithstanding the many mistakes that he made, many Zimbabweans will probably agree that had he not held on to power beyond the 1990s, he would today be largely remembered as one of Africa's best leaders in history," the paper said in an editorial.
Both newspapers were major targets of Mugabe's vitriol, with editors and reporters routinely arrested during Mugabe's rule.
On the streets of the capital, Harare, few seemed bothered as people struggled to cope with biting economic problems largely blamed by critics on Mugabe's rule and perpetuated by his successor and an ally who later turned foe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa took power in 2017 with the help of the military.
"Who cares?" said Percy Maute, a street vendor pushing a cart full of tomatoes along a busy street named after the former president. "I don't care. I am too busy looking for money to mourn a man who put me in this position."
A small group of people drank beer and sang pro-Mugabe songs outside a liquor outlet and wore T-shirts with Mugabe's face. Although only a few people cared to join or commiserate with them, they danced vigorously and spoke glowingly of a man they said fought for the liberation of not just Zimbabwe, but "the rest of Africa."
"Bob was our hero, he taught us that the white man is not a master," they sang. Mugabe was popularly known by the nickname Bob.
Harare, Sept 6 (AP/UNB) — Robert Mugabe, the former leader of Zimbabwe forced to resign in 2017 after a 37-year rule whose early promise was eroded by economic turmoil, disputed elections and human rights violations, has died. He was 95.
His successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa confirmed Mugabe's death in a tweet Friday, mourning him as an "icon of liberation." He did not provide details.
"Cde Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people. His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace," Mnangagwa said.
Mugabe, who took power after white minority rule ended in 1980, blamed Zimbabwe's economic problems on international sanctions and once said he wanted to rule for life. But growing discontent about the southern African country's fractured leadership and other problems prompted a military intervention, impeachment proceedings by the parliament and large street demonstrations for his removal.
The announcement of Mugabe's Nov. 21, 2017 resignation after he initially ignored escalating calls to quit triggered wild celebrations in the streets of the capital, Harare. Well into the night, cars honked and people danced and sang in a spectacle of free expression that would have been impossible during his years in power and reflected hopes for a better future.
On the streets in the capital, Harare, on Friday people gathered in small groups sharing the news.
"I will not shed a tear, not for that cruel man," said Tariro Makena, a street vendor. "All these problems, he started them and people now want us to pretend it never happened."
Others said they missed him.
"Things are worse now. Life was not that good but it was never this bad. These people who removed him from power have no clue whatsoever," said Silas Marongo, holding an axe and joining men and women cutting a tree for firewood in suburban Harare to beat severe electricity shortages that signify the worsening economic situation in the southern African country.
On Feb. 21, 2018, Mugabe marked his first birthday since his resignation in near solitude, far from the lavish affair of past years. While the government that removed him with military assistance had declared his birthday as a national holiday, his successor and former deputy Mnangagwa did not mention him in a televised speech on the day.
Mugabe's decline in his last years as president was partly linked to the political ambitions of his wife, Grace, a brash, divisive figure whose ruling party faction eventually lost out in a power struggle with supporters of Mnangagwa, who was close to the military.
Despite Zimbabwe's decline during his rule, Mugabe remained defiant, railing against the West for what he called its neo-colonialist attitude and urging Africans to take control of their resources, a populist message that was often a hit even as many nations on the continent shed the strongman model and moved toward democracy.
Mugabe enjoyed acceptance among peers in Africa who chose not to judge him in the same way as Britain, the United States and other Western detractors. Toward the end of his rule, he served as rotating chairman of the 54-nation African Union and the 15-nation Southern African Development Community; his criticism of the International Criminal Court was welcomed by regional leaders who also thought it was being unfairly used to target Africans.
"They are the ones who say they gave Christianity to Africa," Mugabe said of the West during a visit to South Africa. "We say: 'We came, we saw and we were conquered.'"
Many in South Africa remembered Mugabe for having stood up to the British.
Floyd Shivambu, deputy president of South Africa's far left Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party, wrote this tribute to Mugabe on Twitter: "You fought your battles, refused to bow down to imperialist bullies!"
Spry in his impeccably tailored suits, Mugabe as leader maintained a schedule of events and international travel that defied his advancing age, though signs of weariness mounted toward the end. He fell after stepping off a plane in Zimbabwe, read the wrong speech at the opening of parliament and appeared to be dozing during a news conference in Japan. However, his longevity and frequently dashed rumors of ill health delighted supporters and infuriated opponents who had sardonically predicted he would live forever.
"Do you want me to punch you to the floor to realize I am still there?" Mugabe told an interviewer from state television who asked him in early 2016 about retirement plans.
After independence, Mugabe reached out to whites after a long war between black guerrillas and the white rulers of Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was known. He stressed education and built new schools. Tourism and mining flourished and Zimbabwe was a regional breadbasket.
However, a brutal military campaign waged against an uprising in western Matabeleland province that ended in 1987 augured a bitter turn in Zimbabwe's fortunes. As the years went by, Mugabe was widely accused of hanging onto power through violence and vote fraud, notably in a 2008 election that led to a troubled coalition government after regional mediators intervened.
"I have many degrees in violence," Mugabe once boasted on a campaign trail, raising his fist. "You see this fist, it can smash your face."
Mugabe was re-elected in 2013 in another election marred by alleged irregularities, though he dismissed his critics as sore losers.
Amid the political turmoil, the economy of Zimbabwe, traditionally rich in agriculture and minerals, was deteriorating. Factories were closing, unemployment was rising and the country abandoned its currency for the US dollar in 2009 because of hyperinflation.
The economic problems are often traced to the violent seizures of thousands of white-owned farms that began around 2000. Land reform was supposed to take much of the country's most fertile land — owned by about 4,500 white descendants of mainly British and South African colonial-era settlers — and redistribute it to poor blacks. Instead, Mugabe gave prime farms to ruling party leaders, party loyalists, security chiefs, relatives and cronies.
Mugabe was born in Zvimba, 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the capital of Harare. As a child, he tended his grandfather's cattle and goats, fished for bream in muddy water holes, played football and "boxed a lot," as he recalled later.
Mugabe lacked the easy charisma of Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader and contemporary who became South Africa's first black president in 1994 after reconciling with its former white rulers. But he drew admirers in some quarters for taking a hard line with the West, and he could be disarming despite his sometimes harsh demeanor.
"The gift of politicians is never to stop speaking until the people say, 'Ah, we are tired,'" he said at a 2015 news conference. "You are now tired. I say thank you."
Geneva, Aug 28 (AP/UNB) — Countries that are part of an international agreement on trade in endangered species agreed Tuesday to limit the sale of wild elephants caught in Zimbabwe and Botswana, delighting conservationists but dismaying some of the African countries involved.
Wildlife experts said a resolution approved by parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora at a meeting in Geneva was a "momentous win" for elephants because it restricts their sale to zoos.
The European Union tweaked the language of the resolution to reach a compromise that limits exports of live elephants outside of Africa but allows for some exceptions relevant to Europe.
Conservationists explained the change by giving an example, saying it would allow for an elephant already in France to be shipped to nearby Germany without having to be sent back to Africa first.
But the new resolution also means zoos will no longer be able to import wild-caught African elephants to the United States, China and many other countries beyond the elephants' natural habitat. The resolution passed by a vote of 87 in favor, 29 against and 25 abstaining. The U.S. voted against it.
Animal advocates applauded the move, even though some felt it didn't go far enough.
"While it is disappointing that it is not an outright ban on trade in live elephants, the new language adds vital independent oversight and scrutiny," said Audrey Delsink, wildlife director at Humane Society International.
"The capture of wild African elephants for export to zoos and other captive facilities is incredibly traumatizing for individual elephants as well as their social groups," she said in a statement.
Dozens of celebrities, including actress Judi Dench and comedian Ricky Gervais, had signed a letter to the president of the EU's executive branch saying it would be "obscene for the EU to endorse snatching wild baby elephants and condemning these beautiful leviathans to a life of captive misery."
Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall weighed in, too, saying she was "absolutely shocked" at the idea of separating young elephants from their families and shipping them off to zoos.
D.J. Schubert, wildlife biologist at the Animal Welfare Institute, said the VIP lobbying paid off.
"Probably thanks to the celebrities that got involved and all the press attention this initial decision got, the European Union was put in a bit of a box," Schubert said. "What they ultimately decided to do, to their credit, is they decided to come up with amended text instead of trying to trash the entire decision that was made last week."
The EU's action was part of a debate over language at CITES to restrict trade in live elephants to countries with "in-situ conservation programs" or secure areas in the wild — essentially in Africa.
Botswana and Zimbabwe have the world's largest populations of African elephants, for a combined total of about 200,000.
Some African officials said the new proposal would deny them some much-needed cash and that they should be free to do what they wished with their elephants.
"The government has been pumping out a lot of money for conservation with no real return, yet our government has competing social needs," said Tinashe Farawo, spokesman for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
"We view our animals as an economic opportunity, so we should sell our elephants."
Farawo said that Zimbabwe, Botswana Namibia and other southern African countries would meet for consultations following the CITES meeting.
"We cannot continue to be hamstrung and told what to do with our resources," Farawo said. "We cannot continue to allow powerful countries and NGOs to set the agenda when the elephants are ours," he said, disputing there was any conservation concern.
"We have too many of them so selling them should not be a problem for anyone. Why should we continue to impoverish our people when we have the resource?"
United Nations, Aug 27 (AP/UNB) — Sudan urged the U.N. Security Council on Monday to lift its suspension of troop withdrawals and ensure all peacekeepers leave Darfur by June 2020, but the African Union said overall security in the vast western region "remains volatile."
Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Omer Mohamed Siddig told the council it's time to shift from peacekeeping to peacebuilding in Darfur, and to end restrictions on the government's movement of arms and troops in and out of the region.
In late June, the Security Council voted unanimously to put the brakes on the withdrawal of the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force from Darfur as the country dealt with a political crisis. It extended the mandate of the force, known as UNAMID, until Oct. 31, and it asked the U.N. and AU to make recommendations by Sept. 30 on what the council should do about continuing the withdrawal.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when ethnic Africans rebelled, accusing the Arab-dominated Sudanese government of discrimination. The government in Khartoum was accused of retaliating by arming local nomadic Arab tribes and unleashing them on civilian populations — a charge it denies. In recent years, as the result of a successful government military campaign, the rebellion has been reduced to a rebel Sudan Liberation Army faction headed by Abdul Wahid Elnur in Jebel Marra.
In July 2018, the Security Council voted to dramatically cut the UNAMID force in response to reduced fighting and improved security conditions. The target for ending the mission is June 30, 2020.
Smail Chergui, the AU commissioner for peace and security, told the council that Darfur still faces "intermittent armed clashes" between government forces and Elnur's rebels, who also have abducted civilians and staff of nongovernmental organizations for ransom, robbed commercial trucks and looted property of local media and humanitarian organizations.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Chergui both expressed concern about growing tensions between farmers and herders in Darfur, and the AU commissioner said the current farming season is likely to see more land-related violence.
Chergui said inadequate judiciary, police, prosecution and prison facilities outside the main urban centers are also having "an adverse impact on the security situation and in ensuring accountability for serious crimes and human rights violations."
The Darfur conflict took place under the three-decade autocratic rule of former President Omar al-Bashir, during which Sudan was convulsed by a bloody civil war and rebellions, not only in Darfur but in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. Al-Bashir's rule ended in April when the military ousted him after mass street protests by a pro-democracy movement which began late last year.
A power-sharing agreement signed earlier this month between the military and protesters calls for the government to reach a peace agreement with armed groups within six months.
Up to now, Elnur's SLA faction has refused to join the Darfur peace process. And the Sudan People's Liberation Movement North, led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu, which has fought against Sudanese security forces in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states for much of the last decade, has also refused to talk peace.
Sudan's Siddig called on the international community to join the new transitional government "in inducing the revolutionaries who fought for toppling the previous regime to join hands with us to uplift the plight and miseries of our people who suffered the consequences of war." He also urged countries hosting leaders of armed groups to convince them to come to the peace table.
Chergui said the armed movements say their concerns are not adequately reflected in the agreement between the military and the protesters.
"It is important that the armed movements are fully engaged in the political process," he stressed, and "it is imperative" that Elnur and al-Hilu are persuaded to join the process.
"Otherwise, they will remain spoilers," Chergui said.
On a positive note, he said, "the current political environment and the changes taking place in Sudan provide a unique opportunity for ending the armed conflict, and for achieving comprehensive and lasting peace in Darfur and Sudan as a whole."
The AU commissioner urged the international community to support "all actors."
The U.N.'s Lacroix also congratulated the Sudanese people for choosing "the path of inclusive decision-making, equality and equity, and freedom and human rights for all" — and he said it's an opportunity "to put a definitive end to the conflict in Darfur."
He said once the transitional government forms a new cabinet, "we will engage ... on a range of issues, including the drawdown of UNAMID, planning for a transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, next steps for the Darfur peace process, and post-UNAMID engagement."
Lacroix said an AU-UN-Sudan meeting has been proposed on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly's annual meeting of world leaders in late September, and he and Chergui plan to travel to Sudan together in early October.