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Originally published Monday, May 6, 2013 at 6:45 AM

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Zimbabwe's president: New tasks for Africa's spies

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe urged African intelligence services Monday to prepare for fresh onslaughts by foreigners and the continent's former colonizers to grasp its natural resources and potential wealth.

Associated Press

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HARARE, Zimbabwe —

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe urged African intelligence services Monday to prepare for fresh onslaughts by foreigners and the continent's former colonizers to grasp its natural resources and potential wealth.

 Mugabe said Africa's vast reserves of untapped resources and the world-wide recession have triggered a new scramble for control of its "raw wealth."

Opening a convention of the continent-wide 49-nation Committee of Intelligence and Security Services,  Mugabe said outsiders have used at least 20 armed conflicts in Africa since 1990 to gather intelligence and deploy "stealth predator drones," unmanned surveillance aircraft, to spy on their countries. 

"Our erstwhile colonizers continue to manipulate international institutional and conventions to justify unilateral military interventions in African states with the objective of extracting and unfairly exploiting our resources," Mugabe said.

He told Africa's annual meeting of security agents, who work under the cloak of secrecy, that they are now confronted by increasing human and drug trafficking, money laundering and cyber-terrorism.

Gen. Happyton Bonyongwe, head of Zimbabwe's feared domestic security agency, the Central Intelligence Organization, took over as chair of what is known as "the spies' organization" for the next year.

Among some 4,000 delegates at the opening were Zimbabwe's security commanders, the African Union's special representative on counter-terrorism and intelligence chiefs from as far afield as Sierra Leone, Senegal and other West African states, all of whom passed through strict airport-style metal detector devices.

Zimbabwean intelligence agents dressed in dark suits thronged the corridors of the downtown Harare convention center.

Mugabe said he hoped the visiting intelligence chiefs will enjoy "Zimbabwean hospitality" and visit the nation's tourist attractions. Accreditation forms for the convention asked delegates to provide details of their golfing handicap and several played golf in teams arranged Sunday.

Rungano Zvobgo, head of a Masvingo university in southern Zimbabwe, said the theme of the convention, which ends Wednesday, "The Role of Security Services in Protecting Africa's Natural Resources and Future Economic Development" is a fitting topic for intelligence agencies.

Zvobgo told the meeting that Congo sits on about $24 trillion worth of valuable minerals such as gold, diamond, tin, uranium and coltan. That is equal to the combined Gross Domestic Product of Europe and the United States, he said, and research shows that about $6 million worth of resources is smuggled out of Congo every day.

Coltan, also known as tantalite, is a black metallic ore is used in smart phones, computers and other electronic devices.

Zvobgo said that the use of the metal in the Sony PlayStation contributed to the rise in the price of coltan from $49 to $275 a pound (about half a kilogram) in 2000.

Congo has up to 80 percent of the world's coltan, which lies so close to the surface that it can be mined with shovels and pick axes, requiring no technology or expertise, he said.

In years of bloody conflict in the Congo, "rebel groups and government militias monopolize this mineral resource" to buy weapons and fund their operations, Zvobgo said.

Last year's conference of security agencies was held in Algiers, Algeria.

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