Friday, March 12, 2004

"Youth militia program"

More information is emerging about Zimbabwe's "youth militia program", previously mentioned here:

Deserters from a youth militia program set up in Zimbabwe say they suffered a harsh regimen of hunger and beatings and, in some cases, were sent out to attack and rape opponents of the government.

An estimated 50,000 youths have passed through the militia — nicknamed the "Green Bombers" for the color of its drill uniforms — since it was established in 2001.

The state allocated $37 million in 2002 to what is described as three months of national service and doubled the budget in 2003.

Deserters reaching neighboring South Africa often look like Bongani Moyo, who stands 6 feet 3 inches tall in his worn-out tennis shoes but has spindly legs and has lost the fat below his eyes, pushing the sockets back and giving his head a skull-like appearance.

"We would be sent out into the countryside to punish people who support the opposition," the 25-year-old told The Washington Times after his escape from a militia base near Zimbabwe's second-largest city, Bulawayo.

"We would beat people and sometimes burn down their homes. Other times, we were ordered to rape women who did not support the ruling party.

"If a militia refused to do this, he himself would be raped, and I saw this happening to other young men. I was not brave enough to refuse, so I did what I was told, and I fear now that I must have AIDS."

In late February, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported that it had interviewed nearly 100 women who had been held in the militia camps. Half of them, including an 11-year-old girl, had been raped, they said.


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