US, UK condemn abductions of Zimbabwe activists
The United States and United Kingdom embassies in Zimbabwe have condemned a spate of abductions of opposition activists.
Tension is rising in the southern African country as the main opposition party is preparing for protests Friday against President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The protesters want a negotiated resolution to an election dispute.
Civil society groups on Thursday said six activists were abducted by armed men in the last few days, tortured and dumped in various parts of the capital Harare.
US ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols visited some of the victims in hospitals.
“The US government is concerned about renewed reports of abductions and assault of civil society members and opposition party members,” the US embassy said. “Harassment and intimidation have no place in a democratic and pluralistic society.”
The British embassy urged the government to bring those behind the abductions to book.
“We are concerned at the continuing reports of abductions. Freedom to peaceful demonstrations is a right of all Zimbabwean citizens,” the embassy said.
“We urge the government of Zimbabwe to uphold the constitution, ensure these incidents don’t continue and hold those responsible to account.”
However, reacting to the indictment, government spokesperson Nick Mangwana said a ‘third force’ was behind the kidnappings.
“Since the emergence of the new dispensation, there has always been a force comprised of discharged and disgruntled former members of the old establishment of whom some are trained,” Mangwana said in a statement.
In January, a wave of violent protests rocked the country following a steep increase in the price of fuel.
President Mnangagwa deployed the army to quell the protests and human rights groups say soldiers killed at least 17 people during the unrest.
There were claims that several activists were abducted following the protests.
Civic groups now say they fear a repeat of the violence as government ministers have been threatening to unleash the army on opposition protestors.
“To date, six people have since been tortured by suspected state agents in relation to the planned protests being led by the opposition MDC,” the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said on Thursday.
The MDC led by Nelson Chamisa says it will embark on peaceful protests until the ruling party leader agrees to enter into talks aimed at resolving the country’s political and economic crises.