Queer, human rights activist announces creation of armed movement to oust Mugabe
November 14, 2003
LONDON — A British-based human rights campaigner who has tried to make a
citizen's arrest of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Thursday
announced that an armed rebel movement aims to depose the president
and put him on trial.
The British government said it wanted nothing to do with the
The newly formed Zimbabwe Freedom Movement plans an armed
rebellion unless Mugabe steps down, activist Peter Tatchell told a
news conference, adding he had no involvement in the organization
and was merely acting as its messenger.
ZFM was "in no way" connected to the Movement for Democratic
Change, Zimbabwe's main opposition political party, and it received
no aid from outside Zimbabwe, Tatchell said.
British Foreign Office minister Chris Mullin said Britain would
not support armed force against Mugabe.
"The British government have made clear we can have nothing to
do with any attempt to overthrow the government of Zimbabwe by
violence," Mullin told reporters at a Foreign Office briefing.
Mullin added that he believed members of ZFM had informally
approached British authorities, but had been told "very firmly"
that Britain would have nothing to do with their project.
"ZFM believes that since we have not achieved democracy by
peaceful means ... it is necessary to place the illegitimate
president and government of Zimbabwe on notice that they are about
to be removed by the judicious use of appropriate force," the group
said in statement released via Tatchell.
A call to the Zimbabwe High Commission in London went unanswered
and a message was not immediately returned. The office of the
Zimbabwean government's press secretary George Charamba, contacted
by phone from London, said he was unavailable for comment.
Mugabe, 79, led Zimbabwe to independence and faced little
dissent until recent years, when the nation's economy collapsed and
political violence erupted.
Tatchell said ZFM hoped to slowly build support among the
Zimbabwean security forces so that it could seize the president and
trigger a "bloodless democratic revolution."
Tatchell said ZFM consisted primarily of serving members of the
Zimbabwean armed forces, police and intelligence service, and
estimated that its membership ran into the "low thousands."
The Australian-born Tatchell, 51, has been an aggressive
campaigner for gay rights, and disrupted an Easter service at
Canterbury cathedral in 1998 to complain about the church's
position on homosexuals.
He staged his first attempt to make a citizen's arrest of Mugabe
in London in 1999. Two years later, he was beaten by Mugabe's
bodyguards in Brussels, Belgium when he tried again.
At a London news conference, Tatchell showed a film interview
with two men he described as leading figures in the ZFM - the
movement's commander Charles Black Mamba and deputy commander
Ntuthuko Fezela, both of whom were referred to by their pseudonyms.
He said both had participated in Zimbabwe's armed struggle for
independence in the 1970s.
Tatchell said the interview took place outside Zimbabwe's
capital Harare and the film was smuggled out of the country.
Tatchell added that the ZFM chose him to make Thursday's
announcement because it knew of his campaigning and his extensive
contacts in the media. –Sapa-AP
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