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HRW: Democracy must step up as autocrats face turning point – The Independent

A top rights activist feels populist autocrats could be facing a turning point as people learn that stirring words don’t always translate into action, but he says democratic politicians will have to step up with “visionary leadership” to keep autocrats from getting a second chance.

Kenneth Roth executive director of Human Rights Watch, wants to counter what he sees as “conventional wisdom” holding that autocrats are in the ascendancy. He commented as the New York-based advocacy group on Thursday released its annual report chronicling the human rights situations in roughly 100 countries where it works – from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

In a video interview, Roth highlighted three places that top his long list of concerns for the coming year: Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Myanmar and Sudan. He also pointed to how leaders in countries like Russia, Belarus and Nicaragua last year resorted to sham or manipulated “zombie elections” that had no credibility, saying they were exposed in acts “of desperation and weakness.”

In China, President Xi Jinping and his supporters claim that he is loved by the people, but “he wouldn’t dare have an election,” Roth said.

He said Myanmar’s junta is trying to retain power by force and “massive” public resistance but defections from the military have emerged even as a crackdown has killed some 1,400 demonstrators. U.N. experts have warned that the country could be sliding into civil war.

“This could get very ugly because the junta has completely lost the respect of the people,” Roth said.

While fighting has diminished in Ethiopia, he noted that hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray remain on “the brink of starvation” and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has shown no sign of easing a blockade on the region where more than a year-long war has created a devastating humanitarian crisis.

Roth said that at the turn of the century, “there was this sense that ‘Oh, democracy has won.'” But many people in democratic countries soon felt left behind and grew resentful, he said, which “provided fertile ground for populist autocratic leaders to gain power, promising the moon, saying, ’We’re going to serve you better.’”

“In the end, they didn’t,” Roth said. “I think what we’re seeing now is a turning point because people recognize that that rhetoric may be ‘nice’ — you know, they may be demonizing unpopular minorities, or women’s rights, or LGBT rights — but they’re not delivering anything.”

But autocrats stumbling is “not going to be enough,” he said. “Democracy is going to have to reinvigorate itself and really rise to the occasion in a way that it hasn’t so far.”

He cautioned that democratic leaders are often “too mired in partisan battles and short-term preoccupations” to address issues like climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty, racial injustice and the challenges presented by technology, which all affect people’s lives.

Roth offered criticism for Western governments, saying Germany under former Chancellor Angela Merkel promoted an investment deal with China even as Berlin led condemnation of the Chinese government’s “crimes against humanity” in the western region of Xinjiang. China says it is providing vocational and other training to Muslim Uyghurs in the region in what critics call detention centers.

The government of French President Emmanuel Macron of France “was blind to the abysmal situation in Egypt,” Roth said. And he faulted President Joe Biden’s administration for promising a U.S. foreign policy led by human rights but then continuing “to sell arms to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel despite their persistent repression.”

“There’s a need for visionary leadership to have the magnitude required to address the problems of today,” Roth said. “There’s a need to rise to the occasion, and we admit today’s democratic leaders are not doing that.”

He sidestepped a question on who those visionary world leaders might be, but warned that if democratic leaders “continue to fail, that’s going to breed the kind of despair and disillusionment that will give the autocrats a second chance.”


Associated Press writer Lederer at United Nations in New York contributed to this report.

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Mnangagwa-bomb attack accused tells British Court he is 'afraid to kill a fly' – The Zimbabwe Mail

William Chinyanga

LONDON – A Zimbabwean activist accused of telling his followers to carry out terrorist attacks against his country’s regime has told the court that he is ‘afraid to kill a fly’.

According to the Daily Mail, William Chinyanga, 51, is accused of encouraging bombings in the south-east African country in four speeches to 7,000 followers on social media over two days in December 2019.

On December 1, 2019, Chinyanga, of Archway, north London, allegedly told his followers to ‘open gunfire on a gathering of people’ and use ‘gorrila [sic] warfare’.

He is understood to be a campaigner for MDC-alliance, a multi-party political bloc that opposes Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF government in Zimbabwe.

The Old Bailey was told he has been charged with four counts of encouraging terrorism, which he denies.

Chinyanga told the jury that his father was beaten by Zanu PF militants, and he fled Zimbabwe for the UK in 2000 after being threatened by police officers.

On Friday, Chinyanga told the court that he is ‘against guns’ and said he is ‘scared to kill a fly’, insisting that his comments were just a ‘dark joke’.

Assisted by a Shona interpreter, he quoted Mohatma Gandhi and cited George Orwell’s novella Animal Farm as an example of how Zimbabwean politics worked under Mugabe.

He said: ‘These are corrupt people, they are criminals. It made me feel this needed to change.’

When asked what he meant by ‘Put on a hood at night, go and bomb, go and do whatever you want to do’, Chinyanga claimed it was ‘a dark joke’.

He added: ‘I’m an attention seeker, I want the British government to hear my voice, to hear my cry. There is nothing there.

‘I’m against guns, I’m against soldiers, what is the point of a government with soldiers, what is the point of fighting in the 21st century?

‘It is about ideas, which are real and direct. I’m scared to kill a fly, even a spider in my home! Would I kill a human, never!

‘I’m not a person who wants people to be killed.’

To which Clare Wade QC asked him: ‘What about the part where you say “If you see where a policeman lives, beat him up?’

Chinyanga, of Archway, north London, allegedly told his followers to 'open gunfire on a gathering of people' and use 'gorrila [sic] warfare', The Old Bailey (pictured) heard

Chinyanga, of Archway, north London, allegedly told his followers to ‘open gunfire on a gathering of people’ and use ‘gorrila [sic] warfare’, The Old Bailey (pictured) heard

And he responded: ‘If police are attacking you, if the rioters are attacking you, then you can do that to defend yourself.

‘They love to kill, they are monsters.’

When asked about his comments on bombing, Chinyanga claimed he was jut ‘looking for attention.

He said: ‘How, how, how? It would be so expensive, the rockets. It was just a dark joke. I’m just looking for attention.’

The teacher had been involved in political organising in the Zimbabwean capital Harare after graduating from the University of Havana in the mid-1990s.

The activist continued to be involved in politics after arriving in the UK, but was asked to leave the Zimbabwe African People’s Union political party in 2009 after he formed a government-in-exile with himself as president.

Prosecutor Sean Larkin QC had earlier told the court: ‘He is 51 years old, born in Zimbabwe, sought asylum in 2009 and was granted indefinite leave to remain.

‘There is no dispute he is an opponent of the Zimbabwean government.

‘He had a Facebook account and over a two-day period, the 1st and 2nd December 2019 he livestreamed four speeches to his Facebook followers, over 7000 followers.

‘He speaks in a mixture of English and Shona and he speaks against the Zimbabwean government.

‘The prosecution case is that he went far legitimate complaint or protest against the government and committed the offences with which which he is charged.’

Jurors were told that Chinyanga was a ‘long-standing opponent of the Zimbabwean regime’, although only four of the speeches he posted were the subject of charges.

Mr Larkin added: ‘In the course of these speeches he encouraged his followers to bomb the headquarters of Zanu-PF, bomb the motorcade of the leader of the Zanu-PF, bomb petrol stations, it seems with a view to disrupt the economy and bring revolution, attack police officers in their cars, attack soldiers.

‘He encouraged his followers to share the speeches with others.’

Chinyanga is understood to be a campaigner for MDC-alliance, a multi-party political bloc that opposes Emmerson Mnangagwa's (pictured in 2019) ruling Zanu-PF government in Zimbabwe

Chinyanga is understood to be a campaigner for MDC-alliance, a multi-party political bloc that opposes Emmerson Mnangagwa’s (pictured in 2019) ruling Zanu-PF government in Zimbabwe

After police became aware of a speech he posted titled ‘The strategy to remove Announcement’, Chinyanga was interviewed in February 2020.

He admitted posting the speech and wanting to overthrow his country’s government and was released under investigation, during the course of which officers found his other speeches.

In a speech called ‘Anyone in his right mind to open gunfire on a gathering of people its terrorism’ he called what happened in Zimbabwe ‘a disgrace’, the court was told.

Mr Larkin said: ‘What appears to have happened is that he would describe seeing some footage of police in Zimbabwe shooting a protesters, apparently in a tree planting matter.

‘That is what triggered is speeches.’

Jurors were told that the Zanu-PF party had been ruling the Southeast African country since its independence in 1980, for most of that time under Robert Mugabe.

In 2017 he was ousted in a coup by his own party and replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Chinyanga denies four counts of encouraging terrorism.

The trial continues.

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Activist accused of telling followers to carry out attacks says he was 'afraid to kill a fly' – Daily Mail

Zimbabwean activist accused of telling followers to carry out terrorist attacks to overthrow his country’s regime says he was ‘afraid to kill a fly’

  • William Chinyanga, 51, allegedly told his followers to carry out bomb attacks  
  • Zimbabwean activist allegedly called on them for ‘gorrila [sic] warfare’ in 2019
  • The teacher told the court he is ‘afraid to kill a fly’ and said he is ‘against guns’
  • Chinyanga said to be MDC-alliance campaigner opposing Zanu-PF government

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Zanu PF appoints a scholar as Secretary for Administration – The Zimbabwe Mail

Richard Runyararo Mahomva

ZANU PF has appointed Richard Runyararo Mahomva as Director in the Office of the Secretary for Administration at the party headquarters.

Prior to his appointment, Mahomva was research officer in the Research Department.

Mahomva brings in a wealth of experience into the ruling party’s administration division considering his policy advisory roles, research and political communication skills.

Mahomva is also a renowned researcher on Zimbabwean liberation legacy and pan-Africanism.

Mahomva holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Politics and Public Management from the Midlands State University, Masters in Public Policy and Governance from Africa University and a Master of International Relations from the University of Zimbabwe.

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