Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai denounces farm invasions

Link:  Tsvangirai demands end to farm violence in Zimbabwe []

At a press conference today, Morgan Tsvangirai has denounced the current wave of farm invasions as being in breach of the power sharing deal that led to the new government of national unity.

There have been 77 reported farm invasions in the two weeks since Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister of the new government of national unity.

Farm invasions have crippled Zimbabwe and led to the collapse of commercial farming as inexperienced militants took over farms and then let crops and equipment degrade and go to waste.  Many farms in Zimbabwe had state of the art equipment which was not utilised or maintained and was simply left to rust.  Had the government been in any way serious in their efforts to redistribute wealth, they would have drawn on the skills and expertise of those already working on farms.  Instead, farm workers were also displaced, left unemployed and unable to feed their families. 

Zimbabwe: Bennett granted bail but still detained

Link: Zimbabwe court grants bail, lawmaker still jailed [Associated Press]

What happened to the concept of the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven?  A Zimbabwean judge has granted Roy Bennett bail but has ordered that he be retained for a further week in case the prosecution want to appeal.  In my mind, the act of granting a person bail is based on the tenet of presumed innocence in that we allow a person as much liberty as possible until their guilt has been proven.  This judge is merely paying lip service to all of those people who are rightly concerned about Bennett's detention.  The fact remains that nothing has changed and Bennett remains in custody on trumped-up charges.

Balkans: Recommended blogs

Srebrenica Genocide Blog

This is an excellent blog relating specifically to the Srebrenica genocide.  I have mentioned Srebrenica briefly once before when I was talking about Clea Koff's Bone Woman.  Despite the disappearance of 8,000 men and young boys overnight, people managed to deny the existence of this atrocity until cold, hard evidence was presented and the mass graves were uncovered by the UN.

Jasmin's Heart

JC is a survivor of the war in Bosnia and the entry Civilised World about how the world did nothing during the genocide and war in the Balkans is really touching.

Balkans: Radovan Karadžić indictment amended

Link:  UN judges approve new Karadzic indictment [Associated Press]

Judges at the UN-based International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia have amended the indictment against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić.  The charge sheet has been reduced in an attempt to streamline and speed up the trial but importantly, the charges now include two chares of genocide: the first charge was for his involvement in ethnic cleansing campaigns throughout Bosnia and the second relates specifically to the Srebrenica massacres in 1995.

He will answer pleas tomorrow.

Cambodia: Guardian newspaper coverage

Link: The Khmer Rouge and Cambodian genocide: how the Guardian covered it

This is an excellent post detailing the Guardian news coverage of the genocide in Cambodia 30 years ago. This is such a valuable resource because it comprises of newspaper articles and presents history in a way that lay people will understand. I'm aware that newspapers don't always present an unbiased or balanced version of events but this has been extremely helpful for a beginner such as myself.

Cambodia: Khmer Rouge genocide trials begin

Link: Landmark Khmer Rouge trial starts

30 years after the fall of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, the UN-backed trial of a former Khmer Rouge leader has begun in Cambodia.

The Khmer Rouge was a communist, Maoist party that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 under the leadership of Pol Pot. They set up a radical form of agrarian communism where city dwellers were forced to leave cities and work on farms. Their murderous regime resulted in genocide - between 850 000 and 1.5 million people died from execution, torture, forced work or starvation, representing between 20 to 25% of the total population.

I know very little about Cambodia and intend to rectify this immediately. I never knew that justice had not been done for 30 years.

The Continuing Horror of Ethnic Cleansing

Link: ‘The women asked me what they had done to deserve such suffering’

Video: Rape in a Lawless Land

Leah's website: Everything is a Benefit

This is an important and interesting article about the efforts of Leah Chishugi, a nurse and former model who has been living in UK for the past 12 years.  She is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide and she has gone home to her native Congolese village to make a documentary about the women who she says have all been victims of rape.

Leah had moved to Kigali as a young woman and was a model.  She had married and had a small child when the genocide erupted in 1994.  She was separated from her husband and she found herself at the Hôtel des Mille Collines (featured in the film Hotel Rwanda).  They tried and failed to get Leah on a flight to Kenya and she separated from her son and was attacked with machetes.  She hid under a pile of corpses and then was amazingly reunited with her son days later.

She landed up in a refugee camp in eastern Congo and then fled to Uganda, Kenya and South Africa.  She found out that her husband had survived and in 1997 she arrived in the UK and was granted asylum.  Her husband arrived shortly afterwards.

In 2000, she discovered that many of her family members had survived and were living in eastern Congo.  Tragically, her father and two sisters had perished. 

The effects of the Rwandan genocide have had far reaching consequences for the people of Congo

The Rwandan Interahamwe were the extremists Hutus behind the 1994 genocide.  They fled into the forests of eastern Congo when they were defeated by the Tutsi RPF.  There is also a Tutsi rebel faction led by the now incarcerated General Laurent Nkunda.  Leah has discovered that these men have been systematically raping women in eastern Congo villages, killing the men and kidnapping young women. 

‘These men are angry and powerless. They are no longer part of society and are living in the forests. The only way for them to feel powerful is to rape defenseless women’ - Leah Chishugi

Regardless of how the men feel, this is a continuing act of genocide.

'On October 2, 1998, the ICTR sentenced former mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu to three life sentences for genocide and crimes against humanity and to 80 years for other violations including rape and encouraging widespread sexual violence. It was the first time an international court punished sexual violence in a civil war and the first time rape was found to constitute an act of genocide, as well as an act of torture' -

All of this happens just 40 miles away from UN bases and aid agencies in the town of Bukavu. Unfortunately, the areas are considered too dangerous for relief workers because of rebel attacks from the Interahamwe and Tutsi factions.

Zimbabwe: treason charge against Roy Bennett dropped

Link:  Zimbabwe 'treason case dropped'

But he still hasn't been released and new charges of "conspiring to acquire arms with a view to disrupting essential services" have been raised.

Rwanda genocide expert amongst dead in Buffalo air crash

Link: Rwanda genocide court stunned by air crash death of investigator

This news has left me feeling cold inside.  Alison des Forges, an expert advisor to the ICTR and expert witness at over 14 genocide trials, has perished in the Buffalo, New York air crash.  Des Forges was extremely unpopular as she relentlessly worked to get to the bottom of the genocide in Rwanda and to bring those responsible to justice. 

Picture: AFP

This is a great loss to the academic and human rights community.  I am eager for the crash investigation to get underway and for the crash to be ruled an accident.

Rest in peace, Alison.

Zimbabwe: Was it all a ruse?

I'm in a certain amount of shock as the thought crosses my mind that the whole Zimbabwean Government of National Unity was simply a ruse to get exiles to return to Zimbabwe so that they could be arrested.  I hope I am wrong.

Link:  New crisis in Zimbabwe as police arrest ministerial nominee Roy Bennett []

Link:  Zimbabwe police arrest MDC party official [Reuters]

Roy Bennett was an exiled farmer who had his farm confiscated from him in 2003.  He was previously jailed for 8 months for punching the justice minister in parliament.  He went into self-imposed exile in South Africa after he was charged with plotting to kill Mugabe.

It looks like they first charged him with trying to leave the country illegally and this charge was changed to treason.  They are denying him food.

The Reuters story reports that the major Mutare, Brian James, has been arrested.  He was negotiating for Bennett's release.

Rwanda: Genocide convictions

This is a long post of links relevant to the Rwandan genocide.  I hope to post more frequent and thus, shorter posts in the future. 

Link: Rwanda genocide mastermind jailed BBC News, 18 December 2008

The former senior defence official Colonel Théoneste Bagosora was convicted of instigating Rwanda's 1994 genocide and sentenced to life in prison.   Major Aloys Ntabakuze and Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva were aso convicted and given life sentences.  Sentences were handed down by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and charges are described on their website:

"The Chamber found that, in the first days after the death of President Habyarimana on 6 April 1994, Bagosora was the highest authority in the Rwandan Ministry of Defence with authority over the Rwandan military. He was considered responsible for the killing, on 7 April, of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, Joseph Kavaruganda, the President of the Constitutional Court, as well as Frédéric Nzamurambaho, Landoald Ndasingwa and Faustin Rucogoza, who were opposition party officials and government ministers. He was found guilty in connection with the killing of ten Belgian peacekeepers who were killed by soldiers at Camp Kigali on 7 April. Bagosora was also responsible for the organised killings perpetrated by soldiers and militiamen at a number of sites throughout Kigali and Gisenyi between 6 and 9 April.

Ntabakuze was found guilty, as the commander of the elite Para Commando Battalion, for the participation of his soldiers in killings at Kabeza, Nyanza Hill and the L’Institut Africain et Mauricien de Statistiques et d’Economie (IAMSEA) in Kigali.

Nsengiyumva was considered responsible for massacres at Mudende University, Nyundo Parish as well as the targeted killing of civilians in Gisenyi prefecture, the area under his operational command. He was also guilty of sending militiamen to the Bisesero area of Kibuye prefecture to kill Tutsi refugees in June 1994" - ICTR 


Link: Rwandan minister incited genocide BBC News, 20 January 2009

The former Rwandan Justice Minister Agnes Ntamabyariro was jailed for life for her part in the 1994 genocide.  Interestingly, she was tried and convicted in Kigali, Rwanda and was the only member of the ex-government to be tried in Rwanda.

This monster has been proven to have sat down and written down lists of Tutsis who were to be exterminated.  I mean, I knew that genocide occurred in Rwanda but this is the first time I have read of an actual, conscious, recorded effort to exterminate Tutsi peoples.

"Ntamabyariro was accused of holding meetings to plan and organize genocide in Nyanza and Kibuye in her native prefecture. Prosecution also charged her with participating in campaigns to distribute weapons and making lists of Tutsis to be killed.

"They made a list of Tutsi members of PL (Liberal Party) party which included my entire family. They later used that list to hunt down and kill others," one of the witnesses told the court during the trial" -


Link: Rwandan Genocide Court Upholds Official's Life Sentence Voice of America News, 02 February 2009

François Karera was sentenced to life for his role in the genocide in december 2007.  Amongst other things, he was convicted for his role in the Ntarama Church.  Clea Koff describes the mass grave discovered at Ntarama in her brilliant book Bone Woman: Among the Dead in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Croatia.  Church massacres were common in Rwanda - people were lured to churches and places of safety (including a stadium in Kigali) and then they were massacred.  Sometimes they were buried in mass graves but often they were just left where they fell.  Karera committed great evil and it is a good thing that the ICtr upheld his life sentence.

Link: Rwanda: U.S. Plans to Deport Genocide Suspect, 07 February 2009

Léopold Munyakazi is a genocide-denier who has been living and teaching in Baltimore, USA.  He is accused of participating in the genocide and there seems to be some controversy over his deportation because he was an asylum-seeker in the US.  We'll see what the evidence present in this case but I am certain I have read his name before either in Left to Tell or Into the Quick of Life, two excellent witness account books on the Rwandan genocide.

Link: Belgium drops case on Rwanda two BBC News, 12 February 2009

This is an interesting one.  Charles Kayongo and Jack Nziza were generals in the Rwandan Patriotic Front.  The RPF's victory over government forces in 1994 effectively ended the genocide.  Their leader, Paul Kagame, is currently president of Rwanda. 

Now, no one knows who shot down the plane of President Habyarimana on 6 April 1994.  This assassination sparked the genocide.  Of all the books I have read on Rwanda, some raise the possibility that the plane was shot down by conflict-hungry Hutus or members of Habyarimana's own family but most acknowledge that we will never know who shot that plane down (see Season of Blood by Feargal Keane).  Most texts acknowledge that it was possible that it was shot down by RPF rebels but not many people believe this.

When France decided to pursue action against former-RDF generals, it caused a great diplomatic crisis.  In August 2008, Rwanda accused France of playing an active role in the genocide of 1994 and diplomatic ties were severed. 

Morgan Tsvangirai sworn in as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe

Link: Tsvangirai becomes Zimbabwe's PM

It has been a long road for newly appointed Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. He has been beaten, charged with treason and denied power after his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, clearly won the election a year ago.

Many of us never thought we'd see this happen in our lifetimes but a government of national unity has been formed in Zimbabwe and Morgan Tsvangirai has been sworn in as prime minister in a power sharing scheme.

Tsvangirai is now chairman of the Council of Ministers and his first action today was to appoint a new finance minister, Tendai Biti.  All cabinet ministers are members of the Council.

As president, Robert Mugabe retains control of the National Security Council which includes the security services chiefs and Morgan Tsvangirai himself.  Negotiations had almost failed because the MDC had accused the leading party, Zanu-PF, of attempting to keep control of the most powerful ministries in the government, particularly the ministry in control of the police service.

Mugabe is chairman and Tsvangirai deputy chairman of the Cabinet now.  The cabinet is comprised of 15 Zanu-PF members and 16 MDC members of which 3 members belong to the Mutambara faction of the MDC

South Africa has been quick to call for targeted sanctions to be lifted saying that this is required for the success of the government of national unity.  The EU, Australia and New Zealand are hesitant though and are advising caution before sanctions are lifted.  In short, they want to see progress and action first.

Some of the issues that are vitally important at this time are the release of political prisoners and taking urgent action on the cholera breakout (denying there is a cholera problem doesn't count, Bob).

Tsvangirai being sworn in as prime minister
Morgan Tsvangirai being sworn in as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe


For some time I have been trying to make sense of some of the events in places like Rwanda, Zimbabwe and the Balkans. I had the idea that if I could break it down for myself in a way that I understand it then perhaps that information would be useful for other people too.

This whole project was put on the back burner though as I worked on my other blogs and tried to settle into my new life in the UK. The blog was also self-hosted using B2Evo and I found that nearly impossible to maintain. I've found Blogger really easy to use though and now I hope to relaunch this blog here and hope to update it on a much more frequent basis.

In this blog I'll update about the various conflicts in the world but I'll also post snippets from the news that I find interesting or disturbing. It is called "A Passion to Understand" because I have a passionate desire to understand how things like genocide can happen in our modern world and I need to know about these things.

My other blogs are:

Emm in London - my travels both around London and the world

Addicted to Media - my TV, film, book and music reviews

South Africans abroad granted right to vote in upcoming elections

Link: South Africans abroad can vote

I'm both disturbed and delighted to discover today that following a High Court application, South Africans abroad have finally been granted the right to vote in the upcoming elections.

"Section 33.1-E of the Electoral Act was found invalid in terms of limiting the casting of special votes to people who are temporarily out of the country" - News 24

Of course, when I myself telephoned South Africa House a couple of months back, I was told by a woman with the strongest possible Afrikaans accent that they couldn't help me, I must contact the I.C.E. I have to own up to being frustrated beyond belief by her strong accent, by the fact that she could barely speak English and by the fact that this was exacerbated by a fake English accent that she was trying to attach to her already unintelligible speech.

I was also frustrated that this person was representing South Africa to hundreds of people that must phone South Africa House a day.  How mortifying.

Mostly, however, I was frustrated because the abbreviation of the South African Independent Electoral Commission, set up to ensure free and fair elections in South Africa, is in fact I.E.C. and this moron at the end of the line could not even tell me that.

Perhaps I am shooting the messenger but it appears that I am not the only South African that takes the future of my country very seriously and is passionate about my Constitutional right to vote.

That brings me to why today's news disturbed me.  The High Court application was brought on behalf of a South African teacher living in the UK by the Freedom Front Plus.  This is a right wing political party in South Africa and I find it unsettling that my right to vote has been defended by such a party.  Unfortunately, this is but one of the many cases that the FF+ fights every year as their political strategy is to "produce results for the Afrikaner in the way in which they approach the governing party".  The future of South Africa depends on equal rights for all regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, language, class, creed or religion.  Would it not be better for all parties to be defending the Constitution?

Seriously, South Africa, it is time to remember your pride and to reflect the country in a positive way and to fight at all times to protect the Constitution.

ETA: Apparently, the Democratic Alliance also launched a High Court application.  Interestingly, their application would not have solved my problem of not being able to vote as it would have allowed only those temporarily living abroad the right to vote.