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Violence continues to make Africa unsafe for its citizens

June 12, 2019
topic:Political violence
tags:#Zimbabwe, #Blessing Moyo, #election, #violence
by:Cyril Zenda
In the run-up to Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections, Blessing Moyo, a 46-year old former teacher in Bikita, a rural area in the south-eastern part of the country, moved to neighbouring South Africa, ostensibly to look for a job.

But the real reason for his decision to leave the country was to ensure his own safety, having repeatedly suffered from the violence that has characterised virtually all of Zimbabwe’s elections since the year 2000, when the most viable opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) arrived on the political scene.

“Election time is a real nightmare for many people, especially those of us who have been involved in politics before,” said Moyo, who left his teaching profession unceremoniously in the run-up to the June 2008 presidential run-off election when hundreds of people were killed in political violence. He survived by fleeing to South Africa. Since then, he makes a habit of leaving for the safety of the neighbouring country whenever the election season comes to Zimbabwe.

“The level of violence in this country around election time is just too much and it’s not something that those of us who have seen our colleagues brutalised and even killed can stand,” Moyo adds.

However, Moyo’s stay in South Africa after fleeing to the neighbouring country in 2008 had to be abruptly cut short when xenophobic violence that flared up in that country exposed him to even worse violence, forcing him to return home where he could live in relative safety for as long as it was not election time.

With the highest crime rate on the African continent, South Africa itself is not the safest hideout for those, like Moyo, fleeing political violence in their home countries.

Foreigners are regularly targeted in these xenophobic attacks – now regular occurrences in the country – as the locals, who are disappointed that the end of Apartheid has not delivered any tangible benefits to them, blame foreigners for all the socio-economic problems the country faces.

An average of 400 bodies of Zimbabweans that die in South Africa – many of them from violence-related deaths – are repatriated from the neighbouring country every month. This serves to highlight how equally unsafe South Africa is for millions of foreigners, mostly economic refugees, that come from other African countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Somalia and Ethiopia.

At Zimbabwe’s Tongogara refugee camp, some 420 km south-east of the capital, Harare, the refugee population that had dwindled to less than 2 000 a few years ago has again swelled to around 13,000 as violence is forcing citizens of many African countries such as Mozambique, the DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Somalia to flee their homes.

Among this growing refugee population are some people that are considered fugitives from “justice” by their own countries, some of them having fought wars on the losing side back home and therefore live lives of always looking over the shoulder. The ruling regimes like those in Rwanda and Burundi are known to track the most prominent of these political refugees for possible assassination.

Violence is an integral component of the politics of many African countries, especially around election time, when stakes are very high.

A report by the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars revealed that various levels of violence characterised all of the 100 elections held in 44 African countries between 2011 and 2017 and this worrying prevalence of election violence is attributed to a number of factors.

“The structural problems in society that make some African countries susceptible to violence include poor living conditions, high levels of unemployment, poor educational facilities and educational status of citizens, poor health delivery system, poor infrastructure, and pervasive corruption,” the report pointed out.

The centre noted that high rates of youth unemployment and the proclivity of political entrepreneurs to manipulate and lure unemployed youth into thuggery during elections are also an important factor that can fuel election violence.

“Repressive and violent security forces who consider violence as the only option to counter opposition activities and protests before, during, or after elections can also contribute to violence,” the report added.

This trend was observed in many countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, the DRC, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Gambia, Rwanda, Ghana, Liberia, Burundi, among others.

Violent revolutions that took place in countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Libya and others have resulted in these countries being turned into near-permanent war zones where violence had become commonplace.

Article written by:
CZ Photo
Cyril Zenda
Embed from Getty Images
Violence that has characterised virtually all of Zimbabwe’s elections since the year 2000.
Embed from Getty Images
“Election time is a real nightmare for many people, especially those of us who have been involved in politics before,”
Embed from Getty Images
Foreigners are regularly targeted in these xenophobic attacks
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