Exiled Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam was the brains behind last year's brutal clean-up campaign in Zimbabwe that left nearly a million people homeless, the independent news service ZimOnline has established.
Authoritative sources within Zimbabwe's feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) told ZimOnline at the weekend that Mengistu, who fled to Harare in 1991 and now acts as President Robert Mugabe's security adviser, warned the Zimbabwean leader that the swelling slum and backyard population in Zimbabwe was creating a fertile ground for a mass uprising.
With the Zimbabwean economic situation ever deteriorating and a discontented population growing in numbers, Mengistu advised Mugabe that the only way to pre-empt a mass revolt -- or any other form of mass action -- in Zimbabwe was by depopulating its cities via the brutal slum-clearance exercise.
Dubbed Operation Murambatsvina, the controversial home-demolition exercise left at least 700 000 people homeless and affected another 2,4-million people, according to a report by United Nations special envoy Anna Tibaijuka.
"His idea was that reducing the urban population through such an operation would greatly diminish the chances of an uprising," said one senior intelligence official.
According to the intelligence official, who spoke on condition he was not named, the former Ethiopian dictator was of the view that spontaneous riots, worse than food riots that erupted in Harare and other cities in 1998, could happen at any time because of the deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe. Urgent pre-emptive action was hence necessary, he told Mugabe....