Warnings have been the theme lately. I'm off to Zimbabwe / Zambia this weekend, the first of which took a measure of finangling with the Asset Protection group to get a waiver to actually go there (I'm an asset). From an email with the Global AP guy:
...the restriction remains in place. In fact, tomorrow (12 January) is the launching of the nationwide rally followed on the 23rd by rallies isolated in Harare. We will gain a better understanding of the security environment after tomorrow’s rally and the one on the 23 January.
The main wing of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, has announced the launch on 12 January of a nationwide ‘New Zimbabwe Campaign’. The campaign includes plans for 300 rallies to be held in rural and suburban areas in January, as campaigning begins for presidential and parliamentary elections expected to take place in March.
The rallies are planned primarily for rural areas, where support for President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) is traditionally strong. However, initial events will be held on 12 January in the Mbare, Glen View and Dzivarasekwa suburbs of the capital Harare and Chitungwiza (19 miles (30km) outside Harare). Rallies in Harare itself are apparently planned for 23 January, though police approval has reportedly yet to be granted. The security forces tend to deal heavy-handedly with opposition gatherings, though Mugabe has recently announced his willingness to open up democratic space, and is unlikely to encourage severe repression as long as ZANU-PF’s continuing – but increasingly fragile – negotiations with the MDC continue. Nonetheless, Control Risks warns that there is a credible risk of clashes in any area where a rally is planned or held.
This also means I'm back on the malaria medication, which I hate. Its called Mefloquine, the brand name for the generic Mefliam. Here's some of the fun stuff it does to people:
Mefloquine may cause psychiatric symptoms in some patients, ranging from anxiety, paranoia and depression to more serious hallucinations and psychotic behavior. In some instances, these symptoms have continued long after mefloquine was stopped, according to reports. Rare cases of suicide and suicidal ideation have been reported, although no causal relationship with mefloquine has been confirmed. To minimize the chances of these adverse events, mefloquine should be avoided in patients with depression or a past history of depression, generalized anxiety disorder, psychosis, including schizophrenia or other psychiatric disturbances.
If psychiatric symptoms such as unexplained anxiety, depression, restlessness or confusion are evident during mefloquine prophylaxis, the medicine must be discontinued and alternative prophylaxis instituted, as these could be prodromal to a more serous neuropsychiatric event.
Also, for good measure, some highlights from the US State Dept. website when registering my trip with the embassy there:
The political, social, economic, and security situations in Zimbabwe are volatile and could deteriorate quickly without warning. In response to growing public protests against deteriorating conditions, the Zimbabwe Government continues to authorize its security forces to suppress all dissent by whatever means deemed necessary. In recent months, political leaders at the highest levels of the Zimbabwean government have condoned the security forces’ use of violence against opponents of the government. The government has defended its right to treat individuals roughly, including those in custody, and has warned of more such actions.
As campaigning and preparations for 2008 presidential elections take place, there is an increased potential for political violence, particularly at large rallies or demonstrations. Government security forces have attacked peaceful demonstrations protesting political repression and a deteriorating economic situation. U.S. citizens are strongly urged to avoid all political rallies and demonstrations, or large gatherings of any kind anywhere in Zimbabwe.
Crime is a serious problem in Zimbabwe, and is driven by the country's deteriorating economy.
Street crime in Zimbabwe is a serious problem. Americans and other foreigners are perceived to be wealthy and are frequently targeted by criminals who operate in the vicinity of hotels, restaurants, and shopping areas of the major cities and tourist areas such as Victoria Falls. Although the majority of crimes in Zimbabwe are non-violent, perpetrators are generally armed with weapons, which can include firearms. The downtown sector of Harare and its high density residential suburbs are particularly high-crime areas. A number of American visitors have been assaulted or robbed while walking in the town of Victoria Falls, especially after dark.
File under "don't tell mom." Click here to learn a bit more about Zim in pictures. Click here to learn more in words.