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Mnangagwa talks army modernisation in Russia as Zimbabwe burns

By Staff Reporter

President Emmerson Mnangagwa meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa says his country may court Russia to help modernise its national army in the future may need Russian help in modernizing its army in the future, RIA news agency quoted him as saying on Tuesday during his trip to Moscow.

Back in Zimbabwe, Mr Mnangagwa’s government has deployed armed police and soldiers on the streets of major urban centres to quash protests and sporadic looting of shops that broke out after the government more than doubled fuel prices to the highest in the world.

At least eight people have reportedly been killed by the security forces and 200 arbitrarily detained.

Mr Mnangagwa, whose country is facing its worst economic crisis in a decade, is visiting Russia in hopes of securing long-term loans. Russia has signed at least 19 military cooperation deals with governments in sub-Saharan Africa since 2014, when it came under Western sanctions for annexing Crimea and stepped up efforts to diversify its economic and diplomatic partnerships.

Mr Mnangagwa had told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency before meeting Russian President, Vladimir Putin, that he will ask for Russian loans but he did not say how much his country wants to borrow. He also said Zimbabwe would like to see Russian companies explore for gas and oil.

Mr Mnangagwa is also planning to attend the World Economic Forum in Switzerland next week to encourage international investment. This will be Mr Mnangagwa’s second appearance at the prestigious Swiss global economy forum, having first attended the event in January 2018 shortly after taking power following the ouster of longstanding president, Robert Mugabe, through a military coup in November 2017.

Mr Mnangagwa has assiduously cultivated a pro-business narrative since taking power, telling investors that ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’. However, the killing of six people by soldiers deployed by Mr Mnangagwa to quell post-election protests in Harare in August 2018 cast a pall on his ambitions to be seen as representing a break from the violence and repression of the past under Mr Mugabe.

The latest killings by the army have increased the body count under Mr Mnangagwa’s ‘Second Republic’ to 14 in just six months.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International expressed alarm at the repressive measures the government has taken in response to the protests, including shutting down the internet to prevent people from supporting or organising protests. The police and military have also reportedly subjected people who were protesting to beatings and other forms of ill-treatment, Amnesty said in a statement on Tuesday.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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