News Briefs Nov. 30th, 2017

Zimbabwean president resigns

Former Vice President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as the new president last Friday, Nov. 24, in the presence of the 60,000 supporters (The Telegraph, “Zimbabwe president-in-waiting Emmerson Mnangagwa returns from exile,” 11.22.2017). He will succeed Robert Mugabe, who has been on house arrest since Nov. 15, when the government was taken over by the Zimbabwean army. Mugabe has officially resigned from office last Tuesday, Nov. 21. The ruling party had already announced before that the 75-year-old Mnangagwa will take over the presidency for 90 days.

The former Vice President has just recently returned to the country, having been forced to flee after being dismissed by Mugabe at the beginning of the month. Reportedly, President Mugabe wanted to vacate the position for his wife, Grace Mugabe, and appoint her to the position of Vice President (CNN, “Robert Mugabe fires Zimbabwe’s VP, paves way for wife to succeed him,” 11.07.2017).

On Nov 15, the Zimbabwean army took control of Harare, the capital city. However, the army denies that it carried out a military coup. According to Reuters, soldiers and armored vehicles blocked access to major government offices, Parliament and court in the center of Harare. After the army seized the headquarters of the state television ZBC, a military spokesman, Major General Sibusiso Moyo assured in a speech that President Mugabe and his family are safe. He said that the target was not the President, but “criminals around Mugabe” causing social and economic suffering (The Guardian, “‘The situation has moved to another level’: Zimbabwe army statement in full,” 11.15.2017).

On Sunday, Nov. 19, Mnangagwa was elected the head of the ruling party ZANU-PF, replacing 93-year-old Mugabe.

ZANU-PF demanded that President Mugabe stop clinging on to power. Mnangagwa announced on Tuesday, Nov. 21, that he told the president he has two options. The first is to participate in negotiations with the military for a peaceful solution to end the conflict. If, on the other hand, he insists on not cooperating and opposing the will of the people, he would be humiliated when the will of the people will prevail. Military veterans, who are highly influential in Zimbabwean society, have called for protest against the president (GardaWorld, “Zimbabwe: War veterans call for anti-Mugabe protests,” 11.21.2017).

After 37 years in office, Mugabe resigned, effective immediately. He decided to resign while parliament was already discussing his removal. It was Zimbabwe’s ruling party ZANU-PF, which was still headed by Mugabe only three days before, who gave the initiative. Shortly thereafter Mugabe announced his withdrawal from the position, saying that it is “for the benefit of the people and for the peaceful transfer of power” (BBC, “Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa promises jobs in ‘new democracy,’” 11.22.2017). In the afternoon of the same day the head of the Parliament, Jacob Mudenda announced his resignation. Mugabe announced that his resignation was voluntary and was taken in order to facilitate the smooth transfer of power. With this announcement the parliament halted the start of the procedure to dismiss the president. Members of the Parliament welcomed this news enthusiastically.

It has been revealed on Thursday, Nov. 23 in a press conference held by the ruling party ZANU-PF that Mugabe and his wife Grace will be able to stay in a country without being prosecuted. They also added that Mugabe is still the liberator of Zimbabwe and that they acknowledge his large contributions to the country.

Mnangagwa, who returned from South Africa—where he had previously fled—on Wednesday Nov. 22, promised his supporters to protect the human rights of citizens and to ensure economic growth and more jobs. Opponents of the new president are additionally demanding the promise for reduction of corruption in the country (BBC, “Post Mugabe era begins,” 11.22.2017).

The new president, who besides holding the position of Vice President has also held a position of minister multiple times, and is known for his long-standing loyalty to the party. According to the analysts there is a relatively big chance that he will rule in a similar fashion to Mugabe. Due to his cruelty, he is also known by the nickname Crocodile, but for now, he enjoys the support of the military, the ruling party and influential veterans of the war of independence of Zimbabwe.

—Marusa Rus, Guest Reporter

Terror Attack in Egypt

On Friday, Nov 24, a terrorist attack occurred at an Egyptian mosque located on the Sinai Peninsula. The deadly attack involved both a bomb and firearms and left at least 305 dead and over 100 wounded, making it Egypt’s deadliest civilian attack.

The attack was shocking not only because of the scale of its fatality, but also due to the fact that most of the victims were Sufi Muslims. While religious terrorist attacks in Egypt have occurred at the site of churches, the targeting of a mosque was viewed as unusual (The New York Times, “Militants Kill 305 at Sufi Mosque in Egypt’s Deadliest Terrorist Attack,” 11.24.2017).

The shock over the attack on a mosque, rather than another religious place of worship, arises from the fact that the militant group affiliated itself with the Islamic State. The Islamic State is an Islamic military movement that uses force to expand and establish a caliphate (Stanford University: Mapping Militant Organizations, “The Islamic State,” 2002). Considered a radical and extremist movement, the Islamic State views Sufism as heretical. Sufism is best understood as a tradition within the Islamic faith rather than a sect of the faith itself.

According to Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Sufism can be described as “an extracurricular way to seek more spirituality within Islam by focusing on the oneness of God and glorifying the prophet Mohammed.” These “extracurriculars” used to find more devotion to God often refer to gatherings outside of standard Islamic practices. These meetings may occur in mosques or houses and are headed by a chosen leader or teacher. One of the primary differences is the prominence placed upon the prophet Mohammed’s character (USA Today, “Deadly Egypt mosque attack: What is Sufism?”).

While it is known that the attack was carried out by Islamic State-affiliated militants, there has yet to be a specific group claiming credit for it. According to surviving witnesses and officials, more than 24 militants appeared at the mosque and the attack began when a suicide bomber detonated explosives. Following the detonation, the rest of the masked militants spread out around the mosque and shot down worshippers fleeing the Friday sermon. Another survivor told a local Sinai news source that the gunmen wore military attire and carried black flags associated with militants affiliated with the Islamic State (The Washington Post, “Militants kill 235 at Sinai mosque in deadliest assault on civilians in Egypt,” 11.24.2017).

The high death toll not only accounts for the local worshippers in the mosque, but also people who had been moved due to violence in the nearby Northern part of the Sinai Peninsula.

—Pazit Schrecker, Guest Reporter

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