Soldiers hold drills in villages

soldiers_3HARARE Soldiers (Pictured) stationed in Zimbabwes Mashonaland East province have held training drills in villages as part of a drive to intimidate villagers into backing President Robert Mugabe in elections expected next year, a human rights group has reported.

Zimbabwes army is fiercely pro-Mugabe and together with youth militia from the Presidents ZANU PF party and war veterans has led violence against the veteran leaders political opponents during elections. The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) said the army has stepped up its presence in villages while ZANU PF militia have set up torture camps in some parts of the country in a chilling reminder to voters of the unprecedented violence that swept across Zimbabwe two years ago.

Military presence in communities has been a source of constant fear for villagers, who anticipate a repeat of the 2008 electoral violence at the hands of the ZANU PF militias and serving members of the army, the ZPP said in its latest report on politically motivated human rights violations in Zimbabwe.

The militarys show of power has been strong in Mashonaland East, where soldiers at Joko Army Barracks are taking their training drills to the villages, instead of the secluded military base near Mutoko, the group said in the report on political violence and human rights abuses in the month of October.

In another incident, the ZPP said traditional chiefs from Manicaland province were summoned to a indoctrination workshop where the Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba told the chiefs to support ZANU PF or they would be deposed from their positions.

Zimbabwe is next year looking to hold a referendum on a new constitution followed by elections that many analysts have warned could see a return to violence without political, security and electoral reforms. The ZPP said political violence is resurgent across the country with the group saying it recorded 896 cases of violence and human rights abuses including assault, intimidation, rape and torture in October compared to 869 such incidents recorded in the previous month.

The ZPP said ZANU PF militia have set up torture camps in Mashonaland Central province a sure sign of worse things to come. Torture bases have also been established in Mashonaland Central in the areas of Muzarabani and Bindura North constituencies leaving villagers terrified, said the ZPP.

Zimbabwes elections have been characterized by political violence and gross human rights abuses with the last vote in 2008 ending inconclusively after the military-led campaign of violence and murder that forced then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to withdraw from a second round presidential ballot.

A power-sharing government formed by Mugabe and Tsvangirai after the flopped poll was tasked to stabilise the economy, easy political tensions and write a new and democratic constitution that would ensure future elections are free and fair.

The coalition government has scored well on the economy but has struggled on the political front with constitutional reforms marred by reports of violence and intimidation, while security forces have continued to threaten the rule of law and human rights. – ZimOnline

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