Monday, January 19, 2004

BURKINA DEFENSE MINISTER SACKED -- TSVANGARAI TESTIFIES AT HIS TREASON TRIAL
Burkina Faso's defense minister has been sacked in murky circumstances. General Kouame Lougue was questioned last week by authorities in connection with a coup plot against the country's head of state, Blaise Campaoré. Gen. Lougue lost his job this most recent weekend. Lougue had until recently been viewed as a loyal supporter of the president. He helped to suppress a coup attempt against Campaore in 1999 and was appointed Defence Minister the following year. However, there has been a growing sense of malaise within the armed forces following the arrest of 16 officers and two civilians in connection with a coup plot that was discovered in September last year. One of the soldiers detained was officially said to have hanged himself in jail a few days after his arrest.

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangarai has finally testified at his own treason trial, some 11 months after the trial started. Mr Tsvangirai told a packed courtroom that he used to regard [the country's strongman Robert] Mugabe, who led the struggle against white minority rule, as a "liberation hero". The case against Mugabe's chief rival hinges on a grainy video tape made by Canadian political consultant Ari Ben Menashe in which Mr Tsvangirai allegedly discusses Mr Mugabe's "elimination", notes the BBC.

A feature by the British news outlet chronicles Mugabe's descent into dictatorship. The piece notes that despite Zimbabwe's ever mounting set of problems inflicted by the Harare regime, Mugabe is an extremely proud man. He will only step down when his "revolution" is complete. He says this means the redistribution of white-owned land but he also wants to hand-pick his successor, who must of course come from within the ranks of his Zanu-PF party. The reporter quoted a senior official from Mugabe's party who noted, the government's proposed constitution in February 2000 - which showed the strength of the opposition - had set back Mr Mugabe's retirement by several years. That defeat stirred him into action, transforming him from a relatively relaxed man contemplating his twilight years, into someone desperate to remain at any cost, even willing to destroy the country he had fought to liberate.

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