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Queer, human rights activist announces creation of armed movement to oust Mugabe

November 14, 2003

Peter Tatchell at the Gay Pride Mardi Gras Parade, London, in 1999 (AFP) 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 rebels.

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.

Peter Tatchell (L) & Zimbabwean Tom Spicer (R) in Paris earlier this year protesting against Robert Mugabe (AFP) 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

Zimbabwe's first black president, convicted of sodomy in 1998, dies



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