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News Brief: Army Takes Control In Zimbabwe, Republicans Respond To Roy Moore


Ever since Zimbabwe became an independent country, it has had one national leader. President Robert Mugabe has resisted all efforts to dislodge him.


But now the country's military has taken Mugabe into custody and is in control of the government. The military put out a statement on state TV saying Mugabe and his wife are safe.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.

MARTIN: The army insists that this is not a coup.

INSKEEP: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Acrton has visited Zimbabwe many times over the decades, and she's on the line. OK, so they say it's not a coup, but they took over. Ofeibea, is this a coup or not?

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: This is a coup in all but name. The military is in charge. But, you know, coups are to do now in Africa. It's not a popular concept. It's not one that is accepted by the continent, the African Union or neighboring countries. This is why the army is sort of pedaling softly and saying we are in charge but this is not a coup.


QUIST-ARCTON: Yes, this is a coup and for the first time in Zimbabwe.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, what is the political backdrop? What was happening at that moment?

QUIST-ARCTON: Tensions have been escalating. And there is infighting within the governing Zanu-PF party that President Robert Mugabe has been in charge of for the 37 years he's been in power because of the succession battle. But Mugabe is 93. He has to go someday.

So there have been different factions within the party wanting to take over from him. That led to the ouster of one of the two vice presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa, last week. And that was after - especially led by the first lady, Grace Mugabe, who is an ambitious and powerful political person within her own right who was vilified, accused of plotting against the president. And then Mugabe sacked him.

And that prompted the only commander - for the first time that I can remember - to say that the army may step in militarily because of the political turmoil and infighting within Zanu-PF. And this caught Emmerson Mnangagwa, the ousted vice president, was also a war veteran. And all these people come from the era of an independence war.

INSKEEP: I see. So this was a question of succession. You had someone who might be a successor shoved aside and that led to a reaction. I just want to, very briefly, to - people to remember, Ofeibea, this is a guy who was in the struggle for Zimbabwe's independence. He was in jail. Then he won independence, became a great hero, then clung to power for so many decades the economy collapsed. But in a few seconds, what has Mugabe been like in recent years as he got into his 90s?

QUIST-ARCTON: Ailing and aging but still very much need to be in control. And he is absolutely the path master at dividing his party, making sure that he has everybody in control. But, obviously, that has totally unraveled with what happened with the military now.

INSKEEP: Divide and conquer but maybe not working this time? That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton on the line from her base in Dakar, Senegal. Thanks very much.

QUIST-ARCTON: All the pleasure, Steve. Thank you.


INSKEEP: OK. Now let's listen in, in this country, to the Senate campaign of Roy Moore.

MARTIN: The Alabama Senate candidate spoke at an event in Jackson, Ala., yesterday. National Republicans want Moore out of this race because of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Five women told stories about Roy Moore. All were in their teens when the sexual misconduct happened. Moore was in their - in his 30s when he approached them. And one of these women says that he sexually assaulted her back then.

INSKEEP: So what is Moore saying now? NPR's Debbie Elliott was at Moore's campaign stop last night. Hi, Debbie.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Hi, good morning.

INSKEEP: How'd it go?

ELLIOTT: You know, this was Moore being back in his comfort zone - no longer, you know, on the defensive. He has said these allegations are false in a statement to reporters earlier this week. But this was a chance for him to sort of be with his people. These were evangelical Christians at the God Save America Revival at Walker Springs Road Baptist Church in Jackson. That's a small town in southwest Alabama.

So in between visiting preachers, who were here from Texas and Kentucky, and some patriotic performances by the church youth choir, Moore took to the pulpit. And he very kind of briefly talked about the allegations, not in detail at all. Instead, he portrayed them as an attack on his conservative Christian values. Here's what he said.


ROY MOORE: This is not just a battle for Democrats and Republicans how they vote on issues. This is a spiritual battle.

ELLIOTT: Now this was a vintage Roy Moore stump speech. He spent a lot of time quoting scripture. And at one point, he even launched into the Gettysburg Address. And the crowd was very enthusiastic.

INSKEEP: OK. So I want to hear a little more about that. When this man who's been accused of various things by five women says it's a spiritual battle, was the crowd - the crowd agreed with that, you're saying? They were with him?

ELLIOTT: They were with him. You know, you have to remember that Roy Moore has made a career of fighting, right? He's a former kicks - kick boxer. He has stood defiant, first, for the Ten Commandments and then for fighting same-sex marriage - two issues he lost in federal court, resulting in his expulsion from the Alabama Supreme Court twice - yet voters stuck with them. They see him as somebody who's being persecuted for his conservative Christian values.

INSKEEP: Well, very briefly, we know national Republicans have turned more strongly against him. What about state Republicans in Alabama?

ELLIOTT: Well, right now that's the big question. You know, you have Alabama Senator Richard Shelby saying that it's time for him to step aside. You even have the man who once held this seat, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in testimony in Congress yesterday saying he has no reason to doubt these women. So now it's going to be up to the Alabama Republican Party Steering Committee - expected to meet soon - to decide what, if any, action it's going to take before this December election.

MARTIN: But, really, the fact of the matter is when you think about who Roy Moore is catering to in his base - if it's The Washington Post, which broke this story, and establishment Republicans in Washington D.C. that are against him...

ELLIOTT: That's who he's fighting against.

MARTIN: You got to believe that his voters are going to be motivated in - to defend him.


INSKEEP: There you go. NPR's Debbie Elliott reporting from Alabama. Thanks as always, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: You're welcome.


INSKEEP: So what drives a shooter to go on a rampage? We can never really know, yet we are compelled to ask once again after a man opened fire in several locations around Rancho Tehama in Northern California.

MARTIN: He killed his neighbors, stole their car and began a rampage in which he ultimately killed four people. He wounded at least 10. Police then killed him in a roadside shootout. The death toll could have been higher. The gunman unsuccessfully attacked an elementary school before driving through town firing randomly at residents.

INSKEEP: NPR's Eric Westervelt has been on the scene - or really the many scenes. And he joins us now. Eric, what more do you understand about what happened?

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve. Yeah, for about 45 minutes, Tuesday morning, this very tiny town was engulfed in real terror. It started when the gunman, who, by the way, police have not publicly named, shot and killed two of his neighbors - a man and a woman. He'd been fighting with them for months, police say. He then stole their truck and attacked a local elementary school, rammed the fence. But he could not get inside the school. And then he drove through town firing, really, at anyone he could find, creating half a dozen mini crime scenes.

I spoke with a coffee shop owner named Brian Rodgers. He owns a shop right across from a small airstrip - just one of the few businesses in town. He was setting up for the day - you know, putting up his flags that say coffee and open and welcome - when he heard the gunfire. And he and his wife took cover. And he says it's such a small town. He could hear everything. Let's take a listen to him describe the scene a bit.

BRIAN RODGERS: You could hear the teachers telling the kids to get down and get in. There was a guy, shortly after that, on the airport yelling, help me, help me. We heard all this. And the gray car came right in front of our business. We were actually hiding behind this building to make sure shots weren't going to hit us. And the car went by. You can see the shot-out back window on the driver's side.

INSKEEP: OK. He mentions a car. You said that he stole a truck. Did he keep, like, grabbing new vehicles to continue as he went from crime scene to crime scene?

WESTERVELT: He did. Further up the road, he intentionally rammed another woman, shot at them, killed one, wounded another and then stole their car.

INSKEEP: OK. You mentioned that he'd had this long-running dispute with neighbors. Is there other evidence of - I don't know how to phrase it even - a disturbed individual, someone who was not getting along with society?

WESTERVELT: Well, we know this past January, Steve, the gunman was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, an attempted stabbing on this neighbor that he killed. He did some jail time for that. So he was out on bail. And the neighbors had gotten this temporary restraining order against him.

And we know there was a domestic dispute call with the police at the property on Monday - the day before this shooting. And, you know, that neighbor and her male partner, as I mentioned, are now, you know, among the four dead. So, you know, some residents I talked with, Steve, they complained that they had talked to sheriff and complained a lot about the gunfire from this man - this gunman, that he would shoot off rounds at all hours of the day and night.

INSKEEP: Eric, thanks very much, really appreciate it.

WESTERVELT: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Eric Westervelt who was on the scene of yesterday's mass shooting in several locations around Northern California.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.
NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.
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