Lesotho + 1 more

Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 3 April

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ZIMBABWE: Opposition protestors freed
Police in Zimbabwe released five opposition demonstrators without charge after detaining them for refusing to disperse during an anti-government march at the weekend.

"They are letting us go, and said they are still investigating," said one of the activists, Grace Kwinjeh, shortly after they were freed from police custody. The five were arrested for "disobeying a lawful order to stand up when they were sitting down", according to Brian Kagoro, spokesman for the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) which organised the march that turned violent on Saturday.

Later when a court order was served on the police indicating that the march was lawful, police said they would keep the demonstrators in custody "to protect them from being attacked by (pro-government) war veterans".

An estimated 5,000 people took part in the demonstration, which was disrupted by armed former liberation fighters and ruling ZANU-PF supporters, resulting in injuries to about 15 people. None of the attackers, who were armed with clubs, rocks and machetes, was arrested.

Meanwhile, defiant marchers vowed on Sunday to "intensify mass action". The organisers of the march, the National Constitutional Association (NCA), an alliance of churches, labour unions and human rights groups, said they were planning 100 days of peace marches and prayer vigils.

ZIMBABWE: Mugabe attacks Britain

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Monday bluntly told Britain to mind its own business, angered at the way British ministers are increasingly criticising his regime, media reports said.

"Britain is trying to teach us how to run our country and naturally we take exception to that," he told British television in Cairo, Egypt on the sidelines of the first summit of European Union (EU) and African leaders.

Said Mugabe: "We are not a British colony anymore. Britain has no right - no right at all - to try and suggest to the rest of the world that we are a failure. If there is any country that should now be considered for sanctions it is Britain for interfering in the domestic affairs of Zimbabwe."

Earlier on Monday, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said he would call on Britain's EU partners next week to send election monitors to Zimbabwe to ensure that the parliamentary elections scheduled for next month are free and fair.

He told the BBC from Cairo that Zimbabweans had the right to choose their own government in a fair election. "I will be proposing next week in Brussels that the EU should consider providing election monitors to make sure that not only are the elections free and fair but are seen to be free and fair."

Meanwhile, media reports said a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the weekend violence against demonstrators were "worrying developments" and that the government would review its assistance to Harare. "We are going to review all the assistance we give to the Mugabe regime and that review will take place in the coming days," the spokesman said.

LESOTHO: Inquiry into political violence

Lesotho on Monday announced the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the 1998 political violence which devastated the tiny kingdom and led to military intervention by South Africa and Botswana, media reports said.

The commission will identify the instigators and causes of the political turmoil and instability in the kingdom between July and November 1998, Deputy Prime Minister Kelebone Maope told the national assembly. It has also been mandated to examine whether there was a conspiracy to destabilise and overthrow the government of Lesotho.

The commission - comprising three South African judges who sit in the Lesotho Court of Appeal - is due to start its investigations on 25 April and complete its work within at least one and a half months, Maope said.

Maseru called for the intervention of foreign troops because it feared a coup after a mutiny in the army and months of anti-government protests, in the wake of a disputed ruling party Lesotho Congress of Democrats'(LCD) victory in the May 1998 election.

[ENDS]

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