Thursday, November 23, 2017

What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
by GREGORY ELICH
Counterpunch
Photo by Malcolm Moore

Long-roiling factional conflict within Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF political party exploded last week in a military coup that quickly seized control of the government and state media. The coup was led by Commander of Zimbabwe Defense Forces Constantino Chiwenga, who is closely aligned with former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Emboldened by President Robert Mugabe’s declining mental sharpness and physical health in recent years, Mnangagwa actively maneuvered to ensure that he would succeed the president. Mnangagwa served as one of Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents. From that position, he and his supporters, known as Team Lacoste, became embroiled in a bitter struggle with younger party members who coalesced around Secretary of Women’s Affairs Grace Mugabe, wife of the president, and whose group was known as Generation 40, or G40.

As early as 2015, Mnangagwa began reaching out to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to discuss plans to implement a five-year transition government, in which both men would play a leading role. The unity government would compensate and “reintegrate” dispossessed former owners of large-scale farms. Reuters obtained hundreds of internal documents from Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization that revealed the plan. “Key aspects of the transition planning described in the documents were corroborated by interviews with political, diplomatic and intelligence sources in Zimbabwe and South Africa,” reports Reuters. The same sources left open “the possibility that the government could be unelected.” In one report, it was said that Mugabe feared that Mnangagwa would attempt to reverse land reform. [i]

According to the documents, senior military officials met with Tsvangirai, many of whom were “saying it is better to clandestinely rally behind Tsvangirai for a change.” Security officials also secretly met with Mnangagwa to discuss Mugabe. “They all agree that Mugabe is now a security threat due to his ill health.”  Not surprisingly, “four people with direct knowledge of coalition-related discussions about post-Mugabe rebuilding” indicated that Great Britain had at least peripheral involvement in discussions, and British ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing was said to favor “Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe.” [ii]

Such behind the scenes machinations did not sit well with G40, and mutual recrimination escalated between Team Lacoste and G40 in recent months. In an explosive politburo meeting on July 19, Minister of Higher Education Jonathan Moyo played a damning video that exposed Mnangagwa’s plans. The video accused him of “working to systematically undermine President Robert Mugabe by capturing the party and state institutions.” The video also revealed that General Chiwenga was deeply involved in those plans. Audio recordings of Zimpapers journalists stated that “they are working to further VP Mnangagwa’s succession agenda and that they work closely with General Chiwenga.”  [iii]

The video claimed that Mnangagwa’s allies in government were using their positions “to advance his bid to unconstitutionally and criminally succeed President Mugabe…The objective was to seize control of the party. That scheme is outlined and detailed in a successionist strategy document that was published in 2015 entitled Blue Ocean.” Quoting the Blue Ocean Strategy document, the video said: “Critical positions must be secured in these institutions and the personnel must be given instructions to hoard dossiers on the G40 brass and all echelons of the party.” [iv]

The Blue Ocean Strategy sought to use the dossiers “to make it toxic for anyone to be associated with the G40 group.” Other tactics included attacks on the character of G40 members, and infiltrating the group and creating discord.  “Seeds of distrust must be sown in that alliance with the First Lady with immediate effect,” the document urged. [v] The campaign to discredit G40 was intended to clear the path to power for Mnangagwa.

By marshaling an impressive array of evidence, the video made a persuasive case, which the military coup on Mnangagwa’s behalf has amply confirmed.

Mnangagwa did not react with equanimity to the video. Moyo says that he responded to the presentation by “making a shocking statement to the effect that while he was in Mozambique, during the liberation struggle, people who made interventions such as my presentation to the Politburo on 19 July would have ‘their head separated from their shoulders’.” The effect of Mnangagwa’s statement, Moyo continued, “was to threaten me with murder.” [vi]

Given the opportunity to answer Moyo’s charges, Mnangagwa delivered an 85-page report to President Mugabe in September. Mnangagwa claimed he was loyal, and without providing evidence, accused Moyo of being a CIA agent and that along with his cohorts in G40, was plotting against Mugabe. Mnangagwa asserted that Moyo was spreading falsehoods about an impending coup. “Professor Moyo concocted a story that his cousin Major Nkosana Moyo who is with the Presidential Guard informed you of a planned coup by the army and [to] install me as the country’s new leader.” [vii] Moyo’s warning had been no falsehood.

On October 11, Mnangagwa went on the counterattack in a formal presentation at a politburo meeting. He repeated the allegation that Moyo was a CIA spy, which he asserted the U.S. Embassy in Harare had confirmed — as if the CIA is in the habit of announcing who its spies are. Mnangagwa pointed to Wikileaks documents concerning discussions Moyo held with U.S. officials during the years when Moyo was not a member of ZANU-PF. An official who attended the politburo meeting reported that Mnangagwa “said the whole army was loyal and played two video clips of General Chiwenga pledging loyalty to the national political leadership.” [viii]

Mnangagwa accused Moyo of “harbor[ing] an agenda of destroying the party whether from within…or otherwise.” As proof of that intent, he quoted Moyo as having said, “Now, if your uneducated mind translates reform as destruction, to hell with you. That is not my problem, and I want to repeat that very statement that the best way to reform ZANU-PF is from within.” It is odd that Mnangagwa would be so uncomprehending as to choose such a statement to bolster his claim that Moyo was out to destroy the party. Mnangagwa added that he has “been trying to understand how a party as solid as ZANU-PF can at any given time be said to be in need of reform.” [ix]

The bulk of the speech was devoted to quoting Moyo from his years outside the party, when he made some critical remarks, and which Moyo has never denied. Mnangagwa argued that Moyo “deceived” the Central Intelligence Organization into telling President Mugabe that “the army wanted to commit a coup,” and that Moyo “knows truly well that all these are lies and fabrications.”

Member of Parliament Shadreck Mashayamombe, Mnangagwa continued, unjustly claimed that the army would carry out a coup “in a brazen and bizarre attempt to tarnish my name. What has happened since then? Why should people believe your coup claims now when you have lied about that before?” [x] How different those questions look now!

In his response, Moyo pointed out that Mnangagwa had failed to address any of the issues he had raised in his earlier presentation concerning Mnangagwa’s plan to topple the government. Regarding Wikileaks documents, Moyo pointed out that there are many more documents referring to Mnangagwa than him. Furthermore, unlike Mnangagwa, Moyo never met a foreign official while he was in government without the presence of foreign ministry officials. [xi]

Moyo revealed that when he was an independent candidate in the 2005 election, Mnangagwa helped fund him and other opposition candidates. Indeed, it was Mnangagwa who led the establishment of the short-lived United People’s Movement. “Throughout the planning process, we had several strategizing meetings…but you have not owned up to that. Instead, you have given a presentation that presents you as ‘comrade loyal’ when that is far from the truth.” [xii]

The evidence for Mnangagwa’s perfidy was too abundant to ignore, and on November 9 he was expelled from ZANU-PF and removed from his position as one of Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents. Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Saviour Kasukuwere submitted a report to the politburo which listed other members of the plot to overthrow the government. [xiii]

Soon thereafter, Mnangagwa turned up in South Africa and issued a statement threatening that President Mugabe and those around him would be driven from the party “in the coming few weeks.” Ominously, he added that his supporters “will very soon control the levers of power” and he “shall return to Zimbabwe to lead you.” [xiv]

Zimbabwe security forces went on high alert following Mnangagwa’s threats. A source close to Mnangagwa said, “This is no longer a game, gloves are now off, and I can tell you he will be back as promised. He arrived in China [to join General Chiwenga during his visit] where he will meet key contacts.” [xv]

General Chiwenga issued a statement condemning Mnangagwa’s opponents and warning darkly that due to political instability, “the military will not hesitate to step in.” ZANU-PF chairman Simon Khaya-Moyo responded by saying the statement suggested “treasonable conduct” and “was meant to incite insurrection and violent challenge to the constitutional order.” [xvi]

The cause of Zimbabwe’s current predicament, Western media inform us, is a simple one. President Mugabe’s wife harbored political ambitions to one day assume the highest office in the land. There is nothing else that one needs to know. Let us leave aside the temptation to wonder why mainstream media, with its near universal adoration of former president Bill Clinton’s wife for her political ambitions, somehow find it reprehensible for a strong black woman in a similar relationship to have political aspirations.

For her part, Grace Mugabe has sent mixed signals on succession, so it is unclear what her exact thoughts were on the matter. [xvii] What is certain is that President Mugabe blundered in not arranging an orderly transition to a successor while he was in a stronger political position, and that failure left the door open for schemers like Mnangagwa and Chiwenga.

The reality is that Grace Mugabe’s political base was too narrow and she was too unpopular for there ever have been a chance of her winning an election. Much of what support she did have would have evaporated upon President Mugabe’s demise. It is not even clear that Grace Mugabe had any chance of being named to take Mnangagwa’s place as vice president. It would be up to the upcoming party congress in December to choose the vice president, President Mugabe announced. [xviii] Furthermore, many reports indicate that President Mugabe favored Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi as his successor. [xix] President Mugabe was well aware of his wife’s lack of widespread support and that her candidacy in a presidential election would be political suicide for ZANU-PF, in that she would be a rallying point for the opposition. [xx]

General Chiwenga did not wait long to make good on his threat to launch a military coup. The government attempted to snuff out the rebellion before it started and dispatched a police paramilitary unit to the airport to arrest General Chiwenga upon his return from China. However, military intelligence caught wind of the plan and an army unit blocked the attempt, allowing Chiwenga to evade arrest. According to an official with knowledge of the incident, “When Chiwenga came, a team of soldiers dressed in National Handling Services (NHS) uniforms got inside the airport, while police positioned themselves to seize him. The soldiers reacted and disarmed them. The soldiers took off the NHS uniforms, revealing their camouflage fatigues, resulting in the police fleeing.” The army immediately set its long-planned coup in motion on the night of November 14-15, eliminating opposition by attacking policemen at the Parliament building and seizing the police paramilitary camp and armory. [xxi]

Armored vehicles and tanks rolled through Harare, taking control of key points. Gunfire was heard throughout the city, as the military hunted down and arrested every Mugabe supporter and member of G40 it could lay its hands on, not shying from the use of violence. According to one source, “The first casualty of the operation was Mugabe’s head of security,” Albert Ngulube. “He was grabbed right at Mugabe’s gate and taken to detention where he was brutally beaten.” Another source reported that soldiers took Ngulube’s “cellphone, watch and gold chain and later detained and interrogated him. He was heavily battered. He has some cracks on his head and could have died.” [xxii]

As one source reported, “Troops arrived at Kasukuwere’s house and shot their way into the residence before shelling it from about ten minutes…The families then escaped to Mugabe’s house…Moyo’s house was also stormed by soldiers.” Secretary of Youth Affairs Kudzai Chipanga and his wife were forced to strip naked and sit on the floor at a police station, where he was ordered to repeat the criticisms he had publicly made of General Chiwenga. Then he was severely beaten. The military later forced him to appear on television and apologize for having denounced Chiwenga’s threat to carry out a coup. [xxiii]

Two Canadian journalists were falsely accused of working for the Central Intelligence Organization, and told by soldiers to lie on the ground. One of the journalists says, “And then they started beating us up. Anything that they had, with sticks, butt sticks, and at times they were using the guns that they had and someone was even saying ‘Hey, you can shoot them’.” Soldiers also walked on the journalists and the beatings lasted 15 to 20 minutes. [xxiv]

When an army unit attacked the home of finance minister Ignatius Chombo, it shot dead his three guards. [xxv] Social media rumored that $10 million had been found in his home, but the photos posted proved to be disinformation. One photo was actually taken in Nigeria and the second photo in a police raid in Brazil. As one wag tweeted, juxtaposing a photo of the Brazil stash with the same photo identified as Chombo’s home, “Boxes of cash on the left were first found by police at apartment in Salvador, Brazil in September. Last night, same bags were found at house of Zimbabwe Finance Minister by the army.” [xxvi]

“Basically, there is no government in Zimbabwe,” said an inside source. “Cabinet failed to seat on Tuesday because all ministers chose to stay away, fearing for their lives.” Among those who were arrested was Masvingo provincial minister Paul Chimedza, who failed in his attempt to flee the wave of repression sweeping the nation. [xxvii]

The long-planned coup to install Mnangagwa was underway, but it was important for the military to present a façade of legality to appease the African Union. Enormous pressure was applied on President Mugabe to resign and appoint Mnangagwa as vice president. That would allow Mnangagwa to take over the reins of power in a legal manner. President Mugabe refused to buckle under intimidation, describing the coup as illegal – which, indeed, it was.

Opposition backers predominate in the cities, whereas Mugabe’s support is heavily concentrated in rural areas, where it can have little political effect. Western media portray the demonstration that was held in Harare to celebrate the coup as expressing the united voice of the people. All Zimbabweans, we were told, are happy at the turn of events. The demonstration represented the opinion of some people, but in what nation is there a monolithic political view? It is interesting how demonstrations only represent the “will of the people” when the cause is to the liking of Western elites. That said, economic difficulties – not entirely unrelated to Western sanctions – have contributed significantly to political dissatisfaction.

War Veterans’ chairman Chris Mutsvangwa, an ardent Mnangagwa supporter, revealed that the Army had capitalized on the Harare demonstration in an ugly bid to threaten Mugabe into capitulating. “The army gave the dictator a message earlier,” he said. “Either he steps down, or they will let the people into his mansion to take him. The army is threatening to unleash the people and let Mugabe be lynched. The generals said they will not shoot the people for him. Instead, they will abandon their posts and leave him to his fate.” [xxviii]

The army was eager to install Mnangagwa as president, and Mugabe was not playing ball. The coup had long been in preparation, and as a leading opposition figure divulged, “a lot of talking was going on” between the army and “different factions to discuss the formation of a transitional government.” Discussions between the army and the opposition had been underway over the last several months. [xxix]

According to a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the plan by the army to bring the opposition into the government was “a done deal,” and was said to have “tacit agreement from regional powers.” [xxx]

Following the coup, Mnangagwa returned to Zimbabwe and began preparing to establish a transitional government that he would lead. It appears that South Africa may be playing some sort of role behind the scenes, as one source hinted. “The parties have been asked to prepare position papers ahead of the visit by [South African President Jacob] Zuma’s envoy. [MDC leader] Morgan Tsvangirai will present on behalf of his coalition, while [People’s Rainbow Alliance leader Joice] Mujuru will present on behalf of her coalition.” [xxxi]

On Sunday, in the absence of Robert Mugabe’s supporters, ZANU-PF voted to expel the president from the party, and in his place appointed Emmerson Mnangagwa as head of the party. Mnangagwa and his backers were out for vengeance, and ZANU-PF announced that Grace Mugabe and G40 members would be prosecuted. [xxxii] That still left the coup leaders without the means of “legally” installing Mnangagwa in power, so Mugabe was given a deadline of 24 hours to resign, or he would face impeachment on Tuesday. [xxxiii]

Western officials are keen to see the transitional government adopt economic policies to their liking. “It’s a transition to a new era for Zimbabwe; that’s really what we’re hoping for,” acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto said. [xxxiv] A European Union spokesperson announced that the EU is “committed to support Zimbabwe in the preparation of credible elections and the delivery of political and economic reforms.” [xxxv] It can be expected that it will not be long before Western economic advisors are paying visits to the transitional government, urging it to enact reforms to liberalize the economy to suit Western investors.

Notes.

[i] Joe Brock, Ed Cropley, “Special Report: Behind the Scenes, Zimbabwe Politicians Plot Post-Mugabe Reforms,” Reuters, September 15, 2017.

[ii] Joe Brock, Ed Cropley, “Special Report: Behind the Scenes, Zimbabwe Politicians Plot Post-Mugabe Reforms,” Reuters, September 15, 2017.

[iii] Owen Gagare, “ZANU PF Politburo Video Exposé,” Zimbabwe Independent, August 11, 2017.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTCeSOEotHc

[iv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTCeSOEotHc

[v] Obey Manayiti, “The ‘Secret’ War Vets Document that Rattled Under-siege Mugabe,” Zimbabwe Standard, June 20, 2016.

[vi] Everson Mushava, “Mnangagwa Threatened to Kill Me, Says Moyo,” Zimbabwe Standard, August 13, 2017.

[vii] Owen Gagare, “Mnangagwa Comes Out Guns Blazing at Moyo,” Zimbabwe Independent, October 6, 2017.

[viii] Wendy Muperi, “Fresh Politburo Details Emerge,” Zimbabwe Independent, October 20, 2017.

[ix] Speech by Emmerson Mnangagwa, “Full Report: Mnangagwa Exposes Jonathan Moyo’s Ties to the CIA,” iHarare, October 9, 2017.

[x] Speech by Emmerson Mnangagwa, “Full Report: Mnangagwa Exposes Jonathan Moyo’s Ties to the CIA,” iHarare, October 9, 2017.

[xi] Wendy Muperi, “Fresh Politburo Details Emerge,” Zimbabwe Independent, October 20, 2017.

[xii] “Jonathan Moyo Spills the Beans on Mnangagwa,” Bulawayo 24 News, October 15, 2017.

[xiii] “Mnangagwa Fired from ZANU-PF,” New Zimbabwe, November 8, 2017.

Farirai Machivenyika, “ZANU-PF Expels Mnangagwa,” The Herald, November 9, 2017.

[xiv] Kitsepile Nyathi, “Mnangagwa Flees Zimbabwe, Vows to Oust Mugabe,” The Monitor, November 8, 2017.

[xv] “Mnangawa Threats Rattle Mugabe,” Harare 24 News, November 10, 2017.

[xvi] “Zimbabwe ZANU-PF Unfazed by Chiwenga…Raps Him for Treasonous Statements…Reaffirms Primacy of Politics over Gun,” The Herald, November 15, 2017.

[xvii] Farai Mutsaka, “Wife of Zimbabwe’s Leader Tells Mugabe to Name Successor,” Associated Press, July 27, 2017.

[xviii] Obey Manayiti, “Mugabe ‘Annoints’ Chosen Successor,” Zimbabwe Standard, June 4, 2017.

[xix] Obey Manayiti, “Mugabe ‘Annoints’ Chosen Successor,” Zimbabwe Standard, June 4, 2017.

Everson Mushava, “Prof Moyo Spills the Beans on Mnangagwa,” Zimbabwe Standard, October 15, 2017.

Wendy Muperi, “Succession Hopefuls Unfit to Govern,” Zimbabwe Independent, October 27, 2017.

[xx] Interview with Piers Pigou, “Zimbabwe: Standoff in Zimbabwe as Struggle to Succeed Mugabe Deepens,” International Crisis Group, November 14, 2017.

[xxi] Bernard Mpofu, “Clashes Between Security Forces,” Zimbabwe Independent, November 17, 2017.

“How Army Takeover was Executed,” Zimbabwe Independent, November 17, 2017.

[xxii] “Mugabe-Generals Crunch Meeting: the Full Story,” iHarare, November 17, 2017.

Owen Gagare, “Mugabe’s Chief of Security Battered,” Zimbabwe Independent, November 17, 2017.

[xxiii] “Mugabe-Generals Crunch Meeting: the Full Story,” iHarare, November 17, 2017.

“Zanu PF Chipanga Beaten Up by the Army at Borrowdale Police Station Around 03:00 AM, I Chombo, J Moyo, P Mphoko, P Zhuwao All Assaulted and Locked Up by Army at Unknown Place,” New Zimbabwe Vision, November 15, 2017.

[xxiv] “Full Episode Transcript,” The Current program, CBC, November 17, 2017.

[xxv] “G40 Cabinet Ministers and Other Officials Detained by Military Police,” New Zimbabwe, November 15, 2017.

[xxvi] “Zimbabwe crisis: Reality Check Debunks False Rumours and Fake Photo, BBC News, November 17, 2017.

[xxvii] “Hide and Seek for ZANU-PF’s G40 Faction,” New Zimbabwe, November 17, 2017.

[xxviii] “Robert Mugabe is Sacked by his Party and Replaced by ‘The Crocodile’ – but the reviled Zimbabwean dictator is still president and goes on hunger strike after vowing to die for ‘what is correct’,” Mail on Sunday, November 19, 2017.

[xxix] Jason Burke, “Zimbabwe: Mugabe and Military Talks Continue Amid Political Limbo,” The Guardian, November 16, 2017.

[xxx] David McKenzie, Jamie Tarabay, and Angela Dewan, “Mugabe’s Exit is ‘a Done Deal’ but Zimbabwe is Still in Limbo,” CNN, November 16, 2017.

[xxxi] Dumisani Ndlela, “Transitional Govt Planned…as Mugabe is Cornered,” Financial Gazette, November 16, 2017.

[xxxii] “Robert Mugabe Removed as Leader of Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF Party,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation,” November 19, 2017.

[xxxiii] “Longtime Zimbabwe Strongman Robert Mugabe Faces Impeachment,” Associated Press, November 19, 2017.

[xxxiv] Warren Strobel, “U.S. Wants ‘New Era’ in Zimbabwe: Official,” Reuters, November 16, 2017.

[xxxv] “Statement by the Spokesperson on the situation in Zimbabwe,” European Union, November 15, 2017.

Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and the Advisory Board of the Korea Policy Institute. He is a member of the Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea, a columnist for Voice of the People, and one of the co-authors of Killing Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, published in the Russian language. He is also a member of the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific. His website is https://gregoryelich.org Follow him on Twitter at @GregoryElich  
World Responds to President Robert Mugabe’s Departure
Comrade President Mugabe with SADC Executive Secretary
Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax.
November 23, 2017
Tendai H. Manzvanzvike Foreign Editor—
Zimbabwe Herald

Zimbabwe’S President-designate Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday paid a courtesy call on South African President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria. President Zuma is the current Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (sadc). The meeting came a day after the resignation of Cde Robert Mugabe from office on Tuesday, following a military intervention and massive, but peaceful demonstrations by people countrywide, calling on him to step down.

Cde Mugabe’s resignation was announced by Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda as a joint sitting of Parliament was preparing to debate a motion to impeach the former President.

Reactions from the international community continue to pour in as global leaders, institutions and other friendly nations respond to Cde Mugabe’s resignation.

The South African Parliament said in a statement that it had noted Cde Mugabe’s decision to resign, adding “this should assist with the peaceful transition to a new leadership”. They applauded the peace and discipline shown since the military operation started. “We also commend the restraint displayed by key institutions and ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe in what could have degenerated into an increasingly tense, protracted, and troubled situation,” read the statement from the SA Parliament.

The African National Congress, a sister liberation movement of Zanu-PF through its secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, said they were not celebrating Cde Mugabe’s resignation and urged restraint. “We have taken a view that says we must continue respecting (Cde) Mugabe for the role he played as a freedom fighter. We must continue supporting him for advocating the Africa development programme and we must celebrate him for being a pan-Africanist . . .,” he said.

He said the ANC had taken “an approach that is not as emotional as others, (for) Zanu-PF is our sister party,” Mantashe said.

China, one of the major global players with deep cooperation with Zimbabwe said its policy towards Zimbabwe would not change. Instead, it expected to enhance cooperation with Zimbabwe under “the principles of equality and mutual benefit”, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said yesterday.

Lu said China has a high regard for Cde Mugabe, who made historic contributions to Zimbabwe’s independence and liberation, is an active advocator of Pan-Africanism, and has also made tremendous contributions to the China-Zimbabwe and China-Africa relations, respectively. “China respects Mr Mugabe’s decision to resign. He remains a good friend to the Chinese people,” said Lu.

Lu also told journalists that China will adhere to its principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe, and hoped that other nations will do the same. The African Union (AU) welcomed the resignation of President Mugabe on Tuesday, saying the decision will go down in history as “an act of statesmanship that can only bolster President Mugabe’s political legacy”, said Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission in a statement.

He said Cde Mugabe would be remembered as a fearless Pan-Africanist liberation fighter, and the father of the independent Zimbabwean nation, the AU’s statement said.

Mr Mahamat noted that the AU recognises that the Zimbabwean people have expressed their will and there should be a peaceful transfer of power in a manner that secures the democratic future of their country. Speaking to Guinean media, President Alpha Conde, who is also AU’s chairperson, saluted Cde Mugabe for being a “great fighter” who “will never be forgotten”.

In its statement, the European Union said Cde Mugabe’s resignation demonstrated that he had listened to the voice of the people. “An orderly and irreversible transition towards genuinely democratic elections is our shared objective. The consolidation of the constitutional order and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms are key,” said EU representative Federica Mogherini.

She said the EU stands ready to assist Zimbabwe in achieving a more prosperous and democratic future in cooperation with the AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres, encouraged Zimbabweans to “maintain calm and restraint.” United States State Department, in a statement on Tuesday, congratulated the Zimbabwean people saying: “Zimbabwe has a historic opportunity to set itself on a new path.”

United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May said the news of Cde Mugabe’s resignation was an opportunity to “forge a new path free”, she said in a statement.
Some Suggest Shift in Zimbabwe Domestic and International Approach: "President Mnangagwa Should Pursue a Pragmatic Foreign Policy", Editorial
November 24, 2017
Alexander Rusero Correspondent
Zimbabwe Herald

“IT doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.”

The famous quotation was echoed by the Chinese revolutionary and politician – Deng Xiaoping – who in his conviction pursued the policies the Chinese founding leader Chairman Mao had put in place but with more practicality and reform that led China to where it is today.

The swearing in of Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe marks a new epoch in the history of this State, particularly the country’s socio-economic and political infrastructure which is in desperate need of renovation, overhaul and complete change.

One thing Cde Mnangagwa’s predecessor successfully did was the total isolation of Zimbabwe from the international community and positioning it on the peripheries of globalisation and in the process failure by the entire Zimbabwean citizenry to benefit from the dividends of international cooperation.

The foreign policy pursued by Zimbabwe during the reign of Cde Robert Mugabe with the dawn of the new millennium was characterised by demonisation and confrontation as well as tired diplomacy of the erstwhile era no longer viable in the 21st century diplomatic approach. Arrogant diplomacy pursued by Cde Mugabe did more harm than good and became hinged more on personality, self-glory and ego than on benefitting the masses – a cardinal objective of any state’s foreign policy.

Foreign policy is critical at this juncture because it denotes to the activities evolved by communities for changing the behaviour of other states and for adjusting their own activities to the international environment. It is an indispensable engagement in that a state without foreign policy is like a ship without radar which drifts aimlessly without any directions by every storm and sweep of events.

Zimbabwe has had a foreign policy since its inception as a bonafide state in 1980. However, the foreign policy of Zimbabwe under Cde Mugabe had remained static and stuck in Cold War ideological standing without an inch of a movement. Such an approach is no longer viable under a Mnangagwa presidency largely because the country’s economy has been vandalised, its stature as an attractive state has been tainted whilst the bilateral stand-off between Cde Mugabe and the European Union has had devastating effects more to the generality of the masses.

Zimbabwe’s foreign policy has been hinged on five key principles, namely national sovereignty and equality among nations; attainment of a socialist, egalitarian and democratic society; the right of all peoples to self-determination and independence; non-racialism at home and abroad and positive non-alignment and peaceful co-existence among nations.

Zimbabwe’s foreign policy options have either been to maintain, modify or reconstruct the above principles originally outlined in 1980. The first two decades were preoccupied with the consolidation of independence and sovereignty of a newly independent state, multilateralism and non-alignment, given the bipolar Cold War rivalry between the USA with its allies and the USSR.

On the other hand, from 2000 Zimbabwe sought to construct a foreign policy framework informed by forging a regional alliance within the Sadc especially with governments led by former liberation movements as well as emphasising pan-Africanism and African issues.

Furthermore, preferable engagement was directed to the Eastern countries including China, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Iran in an approach Zimbabwe termed the Look East Policy. The Look East Policy is based on the belief that it was better to find alternative allies who did not worry about Zimbabwe’s domestic politics in terms of governance and democracy.

In the first decade after attaining independence, Zimbabwe’s foreign policy was generally pragmatic in the pursuit of socialist convictions and at the same time courting the Western capitalist bloc. This approach was largely successful thereby attracting a lot of international goodwill. Harare became Southern Africa’s diplomatic hub and key in the fight against apartheid and colonialism.

This foreign policy stance influenced Zimbabwe’s military intervention in Mozambique and Angola which were threatened by civil wars. Cde Mugabe’s condemnation of racism in South Africa and Namibia gave him a regional appeal as a statesman fighting racialism and championing equality.

Cde Mugabe entrenched Pan-Africanist sentiments within a region influenced by anti-imperialist and anti-colonial ideology of governments led by former liberation movements. The second decade of independence witnessed the abandonment of socialist principles following adoption of the Bretton Woods’ Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) which were largely unsuccessful and unpopular.

However, Zimbabwe’s foreign policy was still informed by similar circumstances of the first decade pertaining consolidation of independence and multilateralism. In 1997 the Tony Blair-led Labour government’s refusal to honour colonial obligations of funding Zimbabwe’s land reform programme prompted the Zimbabwean Government to embark on a radical land redistribution exercise.

The third decade of independence in 2000 marked a turning point of Zimbabwe’s foreign policy with the abandonment of the Western states as critical allies whilst re-invigorating the politics of solidarity and attaching memory of the liberation struggle within Sadc.

Zimbabwe’s foreign policy was anchored on national security interests, revival of African nationalism and a search of regional alliances. However, despite such endeavours, the political economy of Zimbabwe has impacted on the country’s foreign policy attracting different reactions from various quarters which resulted in the USA and the EU imposing sanctions and restrictive measures on Mugabe’s government in 2001 and 2002 respectively.

Mugabe’s construction of a discourse that sanctions was proof that Western states sought to recolonise Zimbabwe and the rest of the Global South has not been helpful in arresting its economic decline. Cde Mnangagwa ought to put in place mechanisms that attract international investment and measures that nip in the bud the continued economic recession in Zimbabwe.

Such measures surely require more pragmatism than rhetoric. Mugabe was a skilful champion of rhetoric but an ineffective actor to convert that into action. Although Zimbabwe’s foreign policy within Sadc from 2000 upfront has been instrumental in the preservation of Mugabe’s reign, it has had negative implications on the regional bloc given that millions of Zimbabweans have flocked to South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia and Malawi as economic refugees.

This has to be addressed, and it should be one of the first priorities President Mnangagwa should attend. The formulation and implementation of foreign policy is guided by a state’s national interests in form of the composite declaration derived from those values a nation prizes most.

We are quite convinced that Cde Mnangagwa aspires to see a better Zimbabwe than the one presided over by his predecessor. Zimbabweans are quite optimistic that under his watch Zimbabwe will be incorporated into the international community after almost two decades of painful isolation.

The worst thing Cde Mnangagwa’s presidency should indulge in is the permanent definition of Zimbabwe’s friends and enemies. This is not only costly to the much desired cooperation and re-engagement Zimbabwe desperately needs, but to his stature and leadership personality as someone perceived by many as a reformist and pragmatist.

Foreign policy to be pursued by Cde Mnangagwa ought to be informed by pragmatism; it is no longer about Zimbabwe the enemy of the West and the friends of the East – that is a bygone era.

The viable diplomatic and foreign policy approach in the 21st century is one premised on attractiveness. Zimbabwe’s Government should re-engage everyone progressive nation going forward. In May 2014, the then Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said his Government was ready for systematic engagement with the whole world but Mugabe’s foreign policy did not practically shift and point towards willingness to cooperate.

Domestically Zimbabwe should embrace a culture of diversity; one informed by human acceptance that people can agree to disagree.

Alexander Rusero is a PhD candidate specialising in Zimbabwe’s foreign policy.
Zambian Banks Under High Stress, Says IMF
November 23, 2017
Lusaka Times

The International Monetary Fund has charged that Nonperforming loans (NPLs) among Zambian banks have risen and private sector credit growth has turned negative, due to the severe pressures of 2015–16.

In its Financial System Stability Assessment Country Report for Zambia, the IMF says the pressures included slower economic growth, sharply lower copper prices, electricity shortages, a very tight monetary policy, and mounting fiscal arrears and severe fiscal funding pressures.

According to the stress tests carried out by the IMF, as of December 2016, total loans amounted to 36.0 percent of total system assets and the NPL ratio was 9.7 percent of gross loans.

It showed that loan-loss reserves were high, at about 71.5 percent of NPLs and loan growth had reversed to 11.1 percent.

The Fund stated that monetary policy had contributed to the financial stress by very tight liquidity and use of administrative measures that shifted costs and risks to the banking system.

The IMF however noted that the pressures have eased considerably in recent months.

“Most of the administrative monetary measures were unwound in November 2016 and monetary policy has been considerably eased since March 2017. Recent good rainfall has eased electricity shortages and a bumper crop harvest is expected. Fiscal funding pressures have only been partly addressed,” the report said.

Looking ahead, the IMF said the Zambian the financial system faces considerable risks, owing to high dependence on copper exports, rising public debt and funding pressures, and an uncertain monetary policy regime.

It feared that a sharper-than-expected global slowdown may lead to copper price declines and additional pressures on government finance and the exchange rate.

The Fund says a lack of fiscal adjustment may worsen government payments arrears, further impacting asset quality.

“Portfolio capital inflows have recovered following the elections and expectations of a major fiscal adjustment. An outdated legal and regulatory framework has become an increasing handicap to the financial sector. Stress tests suggest that banks are resilient to credit and liquidity stress,” it said.

“In the scenario stress tests, where NPL ratios increased to about 24 percent, total capital adequacy ratios only fell to about 16 percent. However, the tests show that foreign-owned banks—which comprise some 80 percent of banking sector assets—place significant liquidity abroad (largely with their parent banks), which leaves them vulnerable to liquidity concentration risks.”

It added, “A 10 percent 5-day aggregate deposit outflow undermined the liquidity of 11 banks (79 percent of banking system assets), if funds placed with foreign banks are not immediately available due to home country ring fencing or bail-in rules.”

The IMF charged that financial supervision is not fully effective due to an increasingly out-of-date legal and regulatory framework, data limitations, and a severely under-resourced supervisor.

It also observed that staffing shortages at the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) have led to large gaps in timely onsite inspections at banks and deposit-taking nonbanks.

“These issues are now being addressed. Offsite supervision requires greater analytical content to inform risk assessment and guide onsite inspections. Further, there is insufficiently broad monitoring of concentration risk, especially as regards country and transfer risks of liquidity placed abroad by banks,” it said.
North Korean Workers Leave Angola After Sanctions Boost
2017-11-22 21:09
News 24

Luanda - More than 150 North Korean labourers have left Angola following tightened sanctions against the pariah state, the southern African country said on Tuesday.

Angola's foreign minister Manuel Augusto told state TV the 154 guest workers, who had been working on construction projects, left on Sunday and Monday.

They had been employed by North Korean building company Mansudae, which also builds monuments under the terms of a cooperation deal between the two countries.

Augusto said his country needed to meet "international obligations".

"As their contract had finished, we saw no reason why they should stay in the country," he said.

Angola is one of 11 African countries suspected by the United Nations of maintaining military ties with Kim Jong-un's regime - including training exchanges between police and military units.

In an update published in September, UN experts said they had received no response from Luanda to the allegations of cooperation with Pyongyang.

Angola's foreign minister vowed to respect UN Security Council resolution 2 371 which imposes tough sanctions on North Korean companies in response to Pyongyang's repeated missile tests and nuclear programme.

"We have international obligations that we have to meet," said Augusto.

"But that doesn't mean we sever our ties with North Korea. It's an ally that has historically been with our country so our relations with North Korea will remain."

North Korea forged friendly relations with several African nations during their wars of independence and during the Cold War.
Angola: U.S. Stresses Angola's Ongoing Reforms
Luanda — The United States ambassador to Angola Helena La Lime Wednesday highlighted the commitment of Angolan Executive, under the President João Lourenço, having praised the ongoing reforms in the country.

The US diplomat, who is at the end of her three-and-a-half-year term in Angola, described the Angolan Government's two-month performance as positive, stressing that this task (reform) is not an easy process.

During an audience granted to her by the President of Republic, the US ambassador presented farewell greetings.

The diplomat said the fight against corruption undertaken by Government is a reality and will bring positive results for Angola and its people.

As for the cooperation relations between the two countries, she highlighted the close collaboration between the Angolan Ministry of Economy and American businessmen linked to the private sector, as well as with representatives of the US Chamber of Commerce in Angola.

Angola and the United States established formal diplomatic relations in 1993, with stress to the health, agriculture, finance, demining, defence and security sectors.

Helena La Lime underlined that the US Administration is closely monitoring the situation in Zimbabwe - southern African country.
Angola, South Africa Sign Cooperation
Luanda — Angolan head of State João Lourenço will sign this week bilateral cooperation agreements with his host South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma, in Pretoria.

Investments in various sectors and visa suppression in ordinary passports of both countries' citizens, high on agenda of the visiting president on Thursday and Friday.

Should everything runs as planned, the visa waiver may come into force on December 1 this year.

João Lourenço Thursday trip, his first State visit to South Africa, will also focus on strengthening of diplomatic relations between the two countries in the region.

They will also discuss the need to do away with migratory barriers, focus on free flow of peoples, without needing visas on their borders.

João Lourenço had visited South Africa to attend some relevant event, including the opening of IX Ordinary Session of the Pan-African Parliament in 2011, where he participated as deputy Speaker of National Assembly.

This time, he will be received with honors of Head of State by the South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma.
Egypt Refutes Claims of Using Sudan’s Water Quota
Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry and Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Ghandour speak to the media in Khartoum on 20 April 2017 (ST Photo)

November 22, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, Wednesday dismissed statements by his Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Ghandour about Egypt’s use of Sudan quota of the Nile river water saying they only relieved the southern neighbour of unused share.

Last Tuesday Ghandour expressed his support to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) saying it would enable Sudan to use its full share of the Nile water. He further pointed that Sudan has the right at any time to stop this "lend" adding that Egypt which he described as the "debtor" does not want this to happen.

The Sudanese minister was commenting on the failure of a meeting between the three water ministers held in Cairo to discuss a study on the impacts of the Ethiopian dam on Egypt. Sudan believes that the study is inaccurate because it attributes a part of its quota to the northern neighbour.

In line with a bilateral agreement between Egypt and Sudan after the construction of the High Aswan Dam in 1959, Egypt has the right to 55.5 billion cubic meters of Nile water a year while Sudan keeps 18.5 billion cubic meters.

"What Egypt used of Sudan’s quota of water in the past, was a surplus of its absorptive capacity, and with its consent. But it was not an advance or loan," Shoukry said in statements to the official Middle East News Agency (MENA).

Shukri described Ghandour’s statements as "inaccurate," adding he was surprised by his approach of "creditor and debtor in the water relations between the two countries". He went further to say "it not appropriate to be used when it comes to natural resources".

Further, the Egyptian top diplomat indicated that "Sudan has been using its entire share of Nile water, estimated at 18.5 billion cubic meters per year since a long time".

"In previous years, Sudan’s absorptive capacity for is quota was incomplete. Therefore, the overflowing part of its share went to Egypt without its will and with the consent of Sudan," he stressed.

In his remarks, Ghandour spoke about supplemental deals to the 1959 agreement allowing Egypt to benefit from the Sudanese quota.

When the conflict over the GERD construction erupted between Egypt and Ethiopia, Sudan sought to mediate between the two countries. But gradually, the outstanding disputes between Khartoum and Cairo over Halayeb triangle pushed the Sudanese government to stand with the project which will benefit to Sudan allow the full use of its share.

After his return from Cairo, last week, Sudanese water resources minister questioned the credibility of the study alluding it ignored Sudan’s share of the Nile water as it is provided in the 1959 agreement.

The dam issue is expected to top the agenda of Egyptian Ethiopian meetings on bilateral relations next December. The Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will head his country’s delegation.

(ST)
U.S. Caused Troubles in Middle East Region, Sudan’s Bashir Tells Putin
President Al-Bashir meets President Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on 23 Nov 2017 (Photo Kremlin)

November 23, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir Thursday fustigated the U.S. policy in the Middle East region and praised Russia for its support for his country on the international arena.

Al-Bashir who is visiting Russia for the first time held talks on Thursday with President Vladimir Putin on economic and military cooperation between the two countries at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

According to a translated transcription of al-Bashir’s speech during his meeting with Putin released by the Kremlin, the visiting president thanked Moscow for its support to his government during the past years.

"We are grateful to Russia for its position at international venues. We appreciate its efforts to protect the Sudan," said al-Bashir during the meeting which was attended by ministers from both sides.

"Our positions coincide on the majority of issues. We are primarily opposed to U.S. interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries, in particular, U.S. interference in Iran," he further added in his remarks to Putin who was sitting beside him.

The Sudanese president is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for the actions of his government forces during the counterinsurgency in Darfur region. Also, the UN Security Council and the U.S. administration imposed a number of sanctions against the Sudan.

In a shift of American policy towards the east African country, President Donald Trump last October decided to repeal the economic sanctions on Sudan. Also, American and Sudanese officials agreed to resume talks on the remaining sanctions.

Nonetheless, al-Bashir went in his speech to Putin to accuse Washington of being the source of the problems that the Middle East is facing now.

"We think the situation that developed in our country (the same applies to Darfur and South Sudan) has the same roots – U.S. policy. As a result, our country split into two parts, which made a bad situation worse. We need protection from aggressive U.S. actions," he stressed.

"We believe that what is happening in Syria today is also due to U.S. interference, which resulted in such a disaster there," he added.

"We think peace cannot be achieved without President Bashar al-Assad. We believe that Syria would have been lost without Russia’s assistance," said the Sudanese president in what may cause him troubles with his Saudi allies.

It is not clear if al-Bashir was aware that his speech was recorded and would be broadcasted by the Russian government.

ECONOMIC AND MILITARY COOPERATION

During his meeting with Putin which took place after two days of bilateral meetings between different delegations, al-Bashir also expressed his government desire to enhance economic and military relations.

On the military cooperation, he underlined that Sudanese land troops and aviation are equipped with Russian weapons.

"Now we are launching a large programme to reequip our armed forces and we agreed with the Defence Minister [Sergei Shoigu] that Russia will help us in this. We would like to increase our presence in Russia by sending more military attaches here," he said.

He offered to open Russian military bases in the Red Sea region.

"We are also concerned about the situation in the Red Sea. We believe U.S. interference there is also a problem. We would like to discuss the use of military bases in the Red Sea," he said.

He said there is a need to have Russian experts in Sudan to ensure the follow-up of the Sudanese army re-equipment process, as it was agreed with the Russian defence minister.

The Sudanese government allocated a significant amount of money to build a strong army and developed in parallel a muscular militia to fight the rebel groups in western and southern parts of the country.

On the economic file, al-Bashir said they want to develop the mining sector, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and construction of nuclear power plants in Sudan. Also, he said they want to develop business with Russia in oil production, agriculture and railways.

In return, al-Bashir proposed to help Russia develop relations with African countries saying "Sudan may become Russian’s key to Africa".

"We are also interested in developing relations with BRICS," he concluded.

BRICS is an economic block including Brazil, Russia, India and China, and South Africa, analysts say it will become among the four most dominant economies by the year 2050.

(ST)
US Policies Behind Partition of Sudan & Current Middle East Problems – President
23 Nov, 2017 20:07
RT.com

Sudan is against US meddling in the affairs of Arab states, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi Thursday. He also said Washington’s policies are responsible for the partitioning of his country.

"We are against American interference in the internal affairs of the Arab nations,” Bashir said, referring to US attempts to pressure Iran in the first instance. “We believe that the problems the region is currently facing are caused by US meddling,” he said.

The Sudanese leader also touched on the Syrian issue, saying that crisis is also the result of American interference. “If it weren’t for Russian involvement in the situation in Syria, this country would’ve been lost,” Bashir noted.

Sudan needs “protection from the aggressive actions of the US,” Sudan’s president said. “We believe the situation that has happened with our country is American policy, as a result, it turned out that our country was split into two parts,” he said. South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011, becoming the world’s youngest state. However, the new country has been plagued by civil war which began in 2013. Tens of thousands have been killed and over four million people displaced.

Bashir also expressed concern over the US Navy buildup in the Red Sea against the backdrop of the Yemeni conflict, saying, “it was also a problem.”

Bashir said Sudan is eager to renew military-technical cooperation with Moscow as its armed forces are mostly equipped with Russian-made arms. During talks with Defense Minister, Sergey Shoigu, earlier Thursday, it was agreed that Russia will contribute to the modernization of the Sudanese military.

Bashir added that while in Sochi, he planned to discuss cooperation with Russian businesses in the areas of geology, peaceful nuclear development, oil production, agriculture and railway transportation.

“Sudan may become a Russian key to Africa,” he said. “We have great relationships with all African nations and we can, among other things, assist Russia in developing [its] own ties with African countries,” Sudan’s president added.
Syrian Army Supported by Russian Air Force on Offensive in Euphrates Valley
23 Nov, 2017 05:44
Rt.com

FILE PHOTO: Syrian army soldiers fire on the Islamic State (IS) positions near the city of al-Bukamal © Ammar Safarjalani / Global Look Press

Syrian troops are making steadfast advances along the west bank of the Euphrates and ousting Islamic State, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The news comes after a series of major defeats for the jihadists, close to being wiped out in eastern Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that the eastern part of Syria will soon be fully liberated by government forces. This will mean defeating the last remaining Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) units holding swaths of land west of the Euphrates.

“Syrian army units led by General Suheil al-Hassan and supported by the Russian Air Force are chasing and destroying terrorist groups in the Euphrates valley, moving forward along the river’s west bank,” the statement said.

Al-Hassan, whom the ministry called “a legendary general,” is known as a top Syrian commander in charge of troops spearheading the major offensive against terrorists in eastern Syria. Nicknamed “the Tiger,” he played crucial role in ousting IS militants from the cities of Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor, Al-Mayadeen and, lastly, Abu-Kamal.

Abu Kamal was the last major Syrian city in the hands of Islamists. Last week government forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, finally recaptured the city, clearing the militants from their last key redoubt on the Syria-Iraq border.

Life is now steadily returning to normal in Abu-Kamal, where General al-Hassan’s troops have arranged the delivery of medical, water and food supplies, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The city had long been of paramount importance to the Islamists as they used Abu Kamal for ferrying militants from Syria into Iraq and vice versa during the previous stages of war against IS. Its liberation heralds the long-awaited demise of the terrorist group in Syria.

The Russian military command says Islamic State will be wiped out from Syria by year’s end. Meanwhile, the government’s latest victories allow Damascus and its allies to gain momentum and try to open ways for a post-war political settlement.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey at the Black Sea resort city of Sochi to discuss a roadmap for a Syrian national dialogue involving the government and rival opposition forces.

On the same day, the chiefs of general staff of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Sochi to join efforts in fighting Islamic State and other terrorist groups in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that the military leaders also agreed to step up coordination in the de-escalation zone in Idlib.

In the run-up to the trilateral meeting, Putin hosted Syrian President Bashar Assad in Sochi on Monday. The Presidents, who had last met in Moscow in October 2015, said that the military stage of the conflict was coming to an end, and agreed it is now time to talk peace.

Putin also had an hour-long telephone conversation with Donald Trump, briefing him on Syrian peace efforts. “Both the parties expressed satisfaction with the phone call, which was practical and informative,” a Kremlin statement said.

The White House said in turn that Washington reaffirmed its support for the Joint Statement of the US and Russia issued at the APEC summit on November 11. “We’re talking very strongly about bringing peace to Syria, very strongly about North Korea, and about Ukraine," Trump told journalists following the phone call with Putin.
Syria, Iran Discuss Academic Cooperation and Exchange of Scholarships
23 November، 2017

Damascus, SANA – Higher Education Minister Atef Naddaf discussed on Thursday with Iranian Ambassador to Syria Jawad Turk Abadi means of developing academic cooperation between Iran and Syria and prospects of strengthening it.

The two sides focused on the situation of Syrian students dispatched to study in Iran as well as following up on the Iranian students who have scholarships for studying in Syria.

Naddaf stressed the Ministry’s keenness to enhance the academic relations with Iran through increasing the number of exchanged scholarships, carrying out joint theses between the universities of the two countries and holding Arabic language training courses for Iranian students.

For his part, Abadi lauded the strategic partnership between the two countries in combating terrorism and exchanging academic expertise, highlighting the importance of intensifying exchange of visits to develop prospects of cooperation between the Syrian and Iranian universities.

Shaza/H. Said
Syria, DPRK Discuss Cooperation in Reconstruction
22 November، 2017

Damascus, SANA – Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Rima al-Qadiri discussed on Wednesday with the Ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in Damascus Jang Myong Ho means to enhance bilateral relations, particularly in the reconstruction process.

Minister al-Qadiri said that the Syrian people highly appreciate the stances of DPRK’s people in supporting Syria, mainly during the reconstruction stage, highlighting the importance of benefiting from the highly specialized expertise of the Korean side.

In turn, the Ambassador expressed his country’s readiness to contribute to the reconstruction of Syria with its expertise and companies specialized in decor and construction.

M.al-Frieh/H. Said
Cuban Radio &Television Institute Chairman: Syria Will Triumph Over Terrorism
23 November، 2017

Havana, SANA- Chairman of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT) Alfonso Noya Martinez expressed his country’s full confidence that Syria will triumph over terrorism not only on the military level, but also on the media level, noting that the Cuban side is ready to cooperate and coordinate with the Syrian media institutions.

Meeting Syria’s Ambassador to Cuba Idris Mayya, on Thursday, Martinez stressed that all Cuban media institutions are closely following up the latest developments in Syria, and they have always voiced solidarity and support to the country in its war against terrorism.

For his part, Mayya affirmed that the common challenges facing the two countries entail uniting media efforts and enhancing cooperation to foil the schemes hatched against the two countries, referring to the fierce media campaigns launched against Syria since the beginning of the crisis.

Mayya added that Syrian national media with its experience and modest capabilities has been able to face the hostile media campaigns, hailing the significant role of the friendly media in this regard.

H. Zain/ R. Jazaeri
Syria Welcomes Final Statement of Sochi Summit
22 November، 2017

Damascus, SANA-Syria welcomed the final Statement of the tripartite summit held on Wednesday in the Russian city of Sochi.

“In light of the Syrian Arab Republic’s commitment to support any political step that respects the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria and contributes to sparing the blood of the Syrian people, the Syrian government welcomes the final statement of the tripartite summit held today in Sochi,” an official source at Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said.

The source added that the summit comes as a completion of the Russian-Syrian summit held on Monday and its outcomes regarding the agreement to continue the fight against terrorism, the basic principles to organize the political track for the crisis in Syria, hold a Syrian-Syrian national dialogue conference and form a committee to discuss the current constitution and later run parliamentary elections.

Manar/Mazen
Syrian-Armenian Business Council Discusses Bolstering Bilateral Cooperation
21 November، 2017

Aleppo, SANA – The Syrian-Armenian Business Council’s General Board held a meeting for the first time since several years of terrorist war on Syria.

Head of the Syrian-Armenian Business Council, Leon Zaki, highlighted the situation of economy in Armenia and its trade relations with Syria, pointing out to the facilitations and other procedures to further enhance trade exchange and cooperation agreements on investment protection and avoidance of double taxation.

Zaki reviewed the outcomes of the visit of Armenian economic delegation to Syria in October which constituted a turning point in Syrian-Armenian relations and contributed to enlisting Armenia as a partner in the reconstruction stage to rebuild terror-affected areas, highlighting exerted efforts to organize a permanent exhibition for Syrian products in Yerevan.

For his part, Aleppo Governor, Hussein Diab, hailed the Syrian-Armenian relations which are based on solid foundation of cooperation, calling for further bolstering economic relations and expanding them.

He stressed the need to activate the role of the Syrian-Armenian Business Council and encourage creative thoughts to revive bilateral relations.

A preview on the Council’s objectives and activities since its launching in 2009 and efforts exerted to enhance cooperation between the two countries was presented.

The participants stressed the importance of organizing joint activities, exchanging visits and increasing volume of trade exchange between Syria and Armenia.

R.Raslan/Mazen
“Syria Which Will Triumph” Photo Exhibition Documents Syrian-Russian Friendship
23 November، 2017

Damascus, SANA- More than 100 large photos documenting activities of the Regional and Social Fund for the Russian Spiritual Heritage Foundation of St. Paul  in all Syrian cities were displayed in an exhibition titled “Syria which will Triumph” at Damascus-based Kafr Souseh Cultural Center.

The exhibition which will last till November 26th is organized by Russian Spiritual Heritage Foundation of St. Paul in cooperation with the Culture Ministry.

The exhibited spontaneous photos shed light on the participation of the Foundation’s volunteers in the restoration of a number of archaeological buildings in Syria after liberating them from the hands of terrorists, in addition to their participation in providing humanitarian relief for those who were affected by terrorist acts in a number of cities and areas in Syria.

The exhibition also embraced screenshots showing citizens’ daily life after restoring security to their cities and villages by the Syrian Arab Army.

Assistant Culture Minister Tawfiq al-Imam told SANA in a statement that the exhibition coincides with the victories achieved by the Syrian Arb Army over terrorism and the Ministry’s festivity on occasion of its inception anniversary, indicating that the exhibition embodies the work of the Russian Foundation in a number of Syrian areas and the firm relations between the two countries on all levels.

For her part, chairwoman of the Russian delegation Valentina Valanseva said “The displayed photos aim at conveying an image about the suffering of the Syrian people to the whole world and they document our work with the Syrian citizens after liberating a number of Syrian areas from terrorism and they monitor the daily life of the Syrian people which we witnessed during our voluntary work.”

Valanseva pointed out that the exhibition also reflects a part of the Syrians’ joy after the victories over terrorism which will be fully eradicated from all Syrian areas soon, asserting that all the photos were spontaneously taken and translated the Syrian people’s love for life and showed their suffering from terrorism.

For her part, Director General of the Martyrs’ Sons and Daughters Schools Establishment Shahira Fallouh said that the exhibition documents Syria’s victory over terrorism and the deep-rooted relations of friendship and cooperation binding Syrian and Russian people.
Shaaban: Syria Ready for Dialogue With Whoever Believes in Political Solution to the Crisis
23 November، 2017

Damascus, SANA- Presidential Political and Media Advisor Dr.  Bouthaina Shaaban stressed that Syria is adopting a constructive practical approach that believes in partnership, political dialogue and the common destiny of all the segments of the Syrian people, expressing the Government’s readiness to hold dialogue with whoever believes in the political solution to the crisis in Syria.

Commenting on the upcoming Syrian National Dialogue Congress, Shaaban told Sputnik Agency that “The success of the congress is based on making the armed groups realize that it is time to stop violence, hand their arms over and engage in a national dialogue that will lead to a comprehensive settlement of all issues related to the current crisis.”

Shaaban added “We are ready to hold dialogue with those who believe in the political solution to the crisis and the responsibility of the other side,” indicating that the desire of the “opposition” or even its ability to participate in a political process has not become clear yet.

The final statement of the tripartite Russian-Iranian-Turkish Summit on Wednesday called upon “representatives of the Syrian Government and opposition which is committed to Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity to participate in a constructive way in the National Dialogue Congress to be held soon in Sochi,” indicating at the same time that the three states agreed on actively working on enhancing the success of the Congress.

R. Jazaeri/ H. Zain
Mikdad: We Support UN Role in Case it Respects its Charter and States’ Sovereignty
23 November، 2017

Damascus, SANA- Deputy Foreign and Expatriates Minister Fayssal Mikdad stressed that the summit meeting between President Bashar al-Assad and President Vladimir Putin is one of the most important meetings as it came before holding the tripartite summit in Sochi city in Russia and it conveyed a message that Russia stands by Syria and consults with it on sensitive issues.

In an interview with the Syrian TV on Wednesday,  Mikdad commented on Sochi statement, saying that the language of the statement affirms the political sides which “we have dealt with over the past years, and it deals with issues of combating terrorism and the bases set to accomplish the political process.”

Answering a question on the UN role in the future political process in Syria, Mikdad said “We support the role of the UN in case it respects its Charter which embodies the sovereignty and the independence of the states and the noninterference in their internal affairs…when the UN practices its role on these bases we welcome it.”

“The committee to discuss constitution during the coming National Dialogue Congress in Sochi doesn’t have an official nature and it is a brainstorming process as the Syrian Arab Republic discusses its constitution according to the constitutional mechanisms adopted by the laws in force similar to the parliamentary elections which are conducted according to a constitutional mechanism and the ballot boxes,” Mikdad added.

He clarified that the battel against terrorism has almost reached the end and the remnants of Jabhat al-Nusra and Daesh terrorists and the groups affiliated to them will naturally decline, asserting that the battel will continue till fully eliminating terrorism.

Mikdad called upon the states which are part of the illegal US-led coalition to withdraw from it, calling upon the US at the same time to stop its operations in Syria and withdraw its forces from it, and to combat terrorism according to the recognized international mechanism.

R. Jazaeri/ H. Zain
Terrorists Target Electric Power Substation in Daraa
23 November، 2017

Daraa, SANA – In a new breach of the de-escalation zone agreement in the southern region, terrorist groups attacked the electric power substation of Khirbet Ghazaleh to the east of Daraa city.

A source at Daraa Electricity Company told SANA that the armed groups on Thursday targeted with a rocket shell the electric power substation of Khirbet Ghazaleh, causing power outage in Daraa city and to water pumping stations in al-Ashaari.

This has forced the company to stop supply through the substation and resort to an alternative reserve line and thus increasing electricity rationing hours, the source said.

The source added that the maintenance teams have immediately embarked on repair works to restore power in gradually.

Shaza/H. Said
Celebration in Hasaka After al-Boukamal’s Liberation
21 November، 2017

Hasaka, SANA – People in Hasaka city celebrated on Tuesday the victories of the Syrian Arab Army in liberating al-Boukamal city in Deir Ezzor from Daesh (ISIS) terrorists.

The celebration was held in the Hafez al-Assad Square in Hasaka city center.

The Attorney-General in Hasaka Mohammed Daoud told SANA’s reporter that victories of the Syrian Army in al-Boukamal dealt a decisive blow to terrorism and its supporters and the Zionist-US agenda in the region.

Hasaka Mufti Sheikh Abdelhameed al-Kandah called for strengthening unity among Syrians and supporting the Army, while Assistant Director of Culture Abdelrahman al-Sayed asserted that the victory of the Syrian Army in al-Boukamal frustrated the Zionist agendas in the region.
Syrian Army Regains Control Over New Areas in Deir Ezzor
22 November، 2017

Deir Ezzor, SANA – Army and Armed Forces units, in cooperation with the allied forces, reestablished control over the eastern and western parts of Mahakan village in Deir Ezzor province after fierce clashes with Daesh (ISIS) terrorists.

SANA’s reporter in Deir Ezzor said on Wednesday that the army units secured the villages and towns of Daher al-Nasrani, al-Sheikh Ali, Wadi al-Khour, Faidat Ahmad al-Haifan, Wadi Fleiteh, and Wadi al-Sail as Daesh terrorists fled these areas.

In the same context, army units regained control over the villages of al-Kashfeh, al-Salhiyeh, Wadi al-Ward point, Tal Melhim, and Sha’b Kha’ein on the road between al-Mayadeen and al-Boukamal after destroying the last of the Daesh positions in them.

H. Zain/ Hazem Sabbagh
Syrian Army Regains Control Over al-Qouriya Town in Deir Ezzor Countryside
23 November، 2017

Moscow, SANA- Army units, backed by the Russian Aerospace Forces, regained control over al-Qouriya town in southeastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, after eliminating Daesh (ISIS) last gatherings and fortifications in the town.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the Syrian Arab Army units liberated al-Qouriya town in Deir Ezzor province from Daesh terrorists, indicating that army units, backed by the Russian Aerospace Forces are continuing successful military operations along the Euphrates River after liberating al-Boukamal city from Daesh.

The statement added that Syrian Army units, backed by the Russian Aerospace Forces are hunting down and eliminating Daesh terrorist groups in the area of the Euphrates Valley and they are expanding their operations along the western bank.

The statement expected full liberation of the Euphrates’ western bank soon which will allow the completion of military operations for eradicating remnants of Daesh terrorists to the east of Syria.

“The Syrian Army units are playing active role in clearing the liberated cities from terrorists and their tools, and they are working on restoring normal life to the liberated cities of al-Boukamal and al-Mayadeen, in addition to organizing the distribution of medicine, drinking water and food aid in the two cities and maintaining their security and safety,” the statement concluded.

H.Zain/ R. Jazaeri
New Head of Macron's Party Vows to Recapture Its Grassroots 'Soul'
Christophe Castaner, 51, was handpicked by French president, but appointment sparks criticism of ‘undemocratic’ practices

Christophe Castaner promised La REM would remain democratic and transparent. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

Angelique Chrisafis in Lyon
@achrisafis
Sunday 19 November 2017 17.00 EST

A fiercely loyal, self-styled “man of the people” has been appointed to lead Emmanuel Macron’s fledgling political movement, La République En Marche (The Republic on the Move, or La REM), promising to recapture the party’s“soul” after a hiatus since the recent election win.

Christophe Castaner, 51, a burly member of parliament with a southern accent, styles himself as both in touch with everyday voters and devoted to Macron’s well-oiled communications machine. He was handpicked by the French president to take over the running of La REM.

Castaner, currently a minister and government spokesman, was a Socialist mayor of a picturesque small town in Provence for more than a decade before becoming one of the first politicians to jump ship to Macron’s centrist project in its early days. He grew up in a military family in the south of France, left school before his final exams – which he retook as an adult – and has a reputation for straight-talking.

At La REM’s first party congress in Lyon this weekend, Castaner was the lone candidate for the role of party director. He was picked by Macron at a presidential palace dinner, then confirmed by a group of party members with a show of hands rather than a secret ballot, sparking criticism from the media and political observers about undemocratic internal party practices.

A small group of 100 party followers went public last week with an open resignation letter, claiming the party had no internal democracy. Others, including La REM members of parliament, responded that Castaner was “the obvious choice”.

La REM, which was created last year by Macron for his own rise to the presidency, remains ultimately driven by its founder and his small team in the Elysée palace, just like other political parties in power in recent decades.

In Lyon, Castaner promised that the movement, whose main selling point had been to do politics in a more open and inclusive way than traditional parties, would stay free, transparent and democratic. He vowed to lead a return to local committees and remain “close to the people”.

The movement was hastily founded by Macron in April last year as simply En Marche (On the Move) when he was still economy minister and considered a total outsider for the presidency. The idea was a centrist movement that was neither “left nor right”, designed to entice people from all backgrounds who were tired of the old parties and political status quo. The aim was to blow apart traditional party politics by re-engaging civil society and brainstorming ideas.

It proved a hugely effective electoral force with thousands of volunteers who knocked on doors, flocked to rallies and distributed leaflets.

After Macron won the presidency in May, the movement – now renamed La République En Marche – became the biggest force in parliament with scores of novice MPs. The traditional French parties of the right and left were left badly wounded.

But La REM, which until now has focused on Macron’s manifesto, must find fresh ideas for future local election battles. At the congress, senior party members said the immediate task was to re-engage grassroots committees and volunteers. It also now faces the challenge of offering something different from the traditional parties.

Christine Hollander, 55, an emergency room nurse who runs La REMin the Drôme as a volunteer and is a newcomer to politics, said: “What’s important now is to really take root in local areas across the country and prepare local and regional elections. Don’t forget we’re a very young party, things have to be put in place slowly.”

The movement currently has over 380,000 members – it is free to join by signing the movement’s charter – but a much smaller proportion of those are currently active. The hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise has over 550,000 members, who join for free when they sign up for the party’s newsletter.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Germany’s Crisis Means Uncertainty for Europe. But It Won’t Be Fatal
The continent has been rattled at a time when it has so many unresolved issues. Macron’s plans, however, will be key – and Merkel is not finished yet

Wednesday 22 November 2017 08.01 EST
Guardian

The collapse of Germany’s coalition talks is the latest shock to hit Europe. No one saw it coming.

Of course the blow is of a different nature from the banking crisis, the war in Ukraine, the refugee crisis, Brexit, Trump, Poland and Hungary’s democratic backsliding, or Catalan secessionism.

Germany’s politics look upended but the fundamentals are still in place: the postwar democratic set-up is hardly under threat. Still, this is rattling stuff. Europe’s powerhouse is in unknown political territory at a time when so much remains unresolved across the continent. And Germany’s political uncertainty means yet more uncertainty for the EU. Yet doomsayers shouldn’t assume that this crisis has to be fatal.

Nowhere outside Germany is the political breakdown being watched more closely than in France. Emmanuel Macron had set his sights on the German election as the starting point of his plan for a European “renaissance” alongside Merkel. On Monday, Macron did not hide his concern, saying it was not in France’s interest that “things become tense” in Germany. “We must move forward,” he added. But the worries go deeper than Germany’s internal problems. If Merkel was supposed to be the leader of the free world in the era of Trump and Brexit then what might the future look like without her? Far-right websites have been humming with glee at the news that Merkel has now run into deep difficulty.

There is little doubt about which forces might seek to capitalise on these events. Merkel has been a favourite punch bag for populists and extremists, left and right alike. Germany’s clout in Europe under her tenure has been much disparaged, not least by Putin and Trump. And the EU was meant to be “catching the winds in its sails” this year, as Jean-Claude Juncker said. But now what? The German crisis may or may not be solved through new elections, but to assess what it means for Europe, how Macron plays his cards will be a key factor.

Macron’s France is on a bit of a high these days, and pulling Europe out of a difficult decade is one of the president’s biggest ambitions. He has built up a close relationship with Merkel, and together they had announced a “plan” for Europe to be implemented once Merkel had overcome her election hurdle. The trouble now is the clock is ticking. After the summer of 2018 campaigning for the 2019 European parliament elections gets under way. That’s a key political moment for Macron, who wants his République En Marche party to somehow be replicated across Europe through transnational lists which would then fill the departing UK’s 73 seats. Add to this Italy’s elections – due early 2018 – with the populist, anti-migrant Five Star Movement worryingly strong, and it becomes obvious that Europe does not need this German impasse.

Another German election could delay everything for months on end: fixing the eurozone, resolving the future relationship with Britain, dealing with the Balkans, delivering on trade deals, regulating globalisation, saving the Paris climate accord, building up European defence, solving Ukraine and the rest of it. As Britain pulls out of Europe, the dynamics of the Franco-German alliance have become absolutely paramount. Macron needs Germany if he is to succeed in at least creating the impression that he can transform France into a trailblazing European power. Germany needs France to allay continental perceptions that it has become too domineering and is acting selfishly.

But let’s keep things in perspective. Germany remains a strong democracy. Its economy is thriving. The country’s anchoring in the EU is not in doubt. Its main political parties all agree on the need to preserve the European project which, as Konrad Adenauer said in the 1950s, would be the road to Germany’s rehabilitation and its wellbeing. Merkel has repeatedly said this year: “Germany can do well only if Europe does well.” No serious politician contradicted her.

To a degree, the current trouble says more about German provincialism than it does about German might or hubris, or indeed any debate in Germany on a grand design for the country’s future or for Europe as a whole. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German president, wasn’t wrong when he warned on Monday that concern would only grow among his neighbours if the leaders of Europe’s largest nation did not rise to their responsibilities.

Against that backdrop, Macron projects self-confidence while Merkel looks jaded. Yet Macron depends on the outcome in Germany more than anything else. At home, he has contained domestic opposition to his labour market reforms and his ratings are up. It is not good news for him that Merkel is now weakened. At the same time, talk of Merkel’s political demise has been going on since the 2015 refugee crisis, and yet she is still around.

Macron is now waiting to see how he can secure the benefits of a relationship he’s so keenly invested in. These questions aren’t just central to two political careers – one just starting, the other of almost record duration. They are central to a whole continent.

• Natalie Nougayrède is a Guardian columnist