The SADC Wrap: Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa calls for sanctions to end, Congo warlord ordered to compensate child soldiers
From across southern Africa, KRISTEN VAN SCHIE brings you a weekly round-up of news making regional waves.
Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, last week called for all sanctions against the country to be lifted as it charts its way forward under new leadership for the first time in 37 years.
The call came on Thursday as the Zanu-PF party’s congress was under way, the first congress in decades not attended by Robert Mugabe who instead reportedly travelled to Singapore for medical reasons.
“We call for the unconditional lifting of the political and economic sanctions, which have crippled our national development," Mnangagwa said, reports Reuters. “We realise that isolation is not splendid or viable as there is more to gain through solidarity, mutually beneficial partnerships.”
Speaking to VOA, the country’s new foreign minister and retired general Sibusiso Moyo said his ministry was now “focusing on reassuring our friends and creating new friends, re-engagement with those who were sitting on the fence before”.
It was a thawing the US ambassador to Zimbabwe welcomed, telling the New York Times: “We’ve been promised that the days of name-calling and blaming are over... We hope that’s true because that won’t help people.”
Mnangagwa was officially endorsed at the congress as Zanu-PF’s candidate for next year's general election. But even as the new president said his government would do “all in its powers” to ensure the vote was “credible, free and fair”, concerns are being raised about the influence of the military, which played an enormous role in November's coup.
Reports the New York Times: “The presence of the army, which has been used in the past to tilt elections in the governing party’s favour, is still felt across the country. Soldiers remain deployed at checkpoints on roads and in towns and the countryside — often performing duties that they are not legally allowed to assume in peace time,” critics say.
The International Criminal Court last week ruled that Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga must pay millions in reparations to the child soldiers he recruited to fight in his militia in the early 2000s.
Lubanga, who was convicted in 2012, is currently serving out a 14-year sentence in a DRC prison.
According to Reuters, the court found Lubanga personally liable for the reparations, which “would fund psychological support and job training programmes” for over 400 child recruits – even as they acknowledged he didn't actually have the money, which would instead come out of a court trust fund.
The victims, who are now adults, are set to receive $8,000 each.
“What is important to us, is not the amount attached to this award... the main thing is that it has been recognised that there are victims in this case,” former child soldier Xavier Maki told AFP.
And Angola’s new president Joao Lourenço has announced a period of grace for citizens to “repatriate” any capital illegally kept abroad.
Lourenço has made several surprising changes since coming to power in September, some of them directly against the family and friends of his predecessor Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, who ruled Angola for nearly four decades.
Reuters called last week’s announcement “one of Lourenço’s boldest policy moves... and suggests he intends to try and draw a line under years of endemic corruption and impunity.”
“At the beginning of the year the government will announce the duration of the grace period so that anyone who has capital abroad can repatriate it in order for it to be invested in the economy, in the creation of companies and jobs,” Lourenço said, reports MacauHub.
But once that grace period was over? “The Angolan state feels entitled to consider this money as belonging to Angola and the Angolans and, consequently, to contact the authorities of the domiciliary countries to have it returned to its possession.” DM
Photo: Warcrimes suspect Thomas Lubanga of the Democratic Republic of Congo awaits the judges’ verdict on the appeal following his conviction two years ago for using child soldiers in a conflict in the Congo in 2002-2003 in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, The Netherlands, 01 December 2014. Photo: EPA/MICHAEL KOOREN / POOL