OTTAWA — Canadians in the Zimbabwe capital of Harare were being advised to stay indoors Wednesday amid political turmoil in the African nation and reports that President Robert Mugabe and his wife are in the custody of the military.
In a message posted on its website, Global Affairs Canada said the “situation is tense” in the city due to increased military activity and advised Canadians there to “remain indoors and monitor the media.”
Zimbabwe’s army said it has Mugabe and his wife in custody and was securing government offices and patrolling the capital’s streets following a night of unrest that included a military takeover of the state broadcaster.
The activity triggered speculation of a coup, but the military’s supporters praised it as a “bloodless correction.”
Armed soldiers in armoured personnel carriers stationed themselves at key points in Harare, while Zimbabweans formed long lines at banks to take out cash. Overnight, at least three explosions were heard in Harare and military vehicles were seen in the streets.
In an address to the nation, an army spokesman said the military is targeting “criminals” around Mugabe, and sought to reassure the country that order will be restored.
The precise whereabouts of Mugabe, 93, and his wife were unclear. “Their security is guaranteed,” the army spokesman said.
The United States issued a similar advisory to its citizens in Zimbabwe, encouraging them to “shelter in place.”
Mugabe has been long been accused of human rights violations, including increasing crackdowns on dissent, amid a deteriorating economy.
“Police abuse increased, and there was excessive use of force to crush dissent,” said the New York-based Human Rights Watch in its latest report on the country.
“Human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists, and government opponents, were harassed, threatened or faced arbitrary arrest by police. Widespread impunity continues for abuses by police and state security agents.
Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined the United States and a host of other countries, as well as health and human rights leaders, in condemning Mugabe’s appointment as a goodwill ambassador for the World Health Organization.
“Quite frankly I thought it was a bad April Fool’s joke,” Trudeau said last month after hearing the news.
The WHO removed Mugabe from that role after numerous organizations, including the World Heart Federation and Cancer Research U.K., said they were “shocked and deeply concerned” because of Mugabe’s “long track record of human rights violations.”
— With files from The Associated Press
The Canadian Press