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African civil society mobilises in solidarity for democracy and human
rights in Zimbabwe
March 16, 2005
Africa – Civil society groups and citizens from Mozambique, South Africa
and Zambia participated in a unique demonstration of regional solidarity
with the people of Zimbabwe on 12 March 2005.
The regional solidarity
initiative, co-facilitated by Amnesty International and CIVICUS: World
Alliance for Citizen Participation in conjunction with local organisations
in the respective countries, was aimed at raising regional and international
attention about the situation in Zimbabwe, where the rights to freedom
of assembly and expression have come under grave threat. It was also intended
to encourage regional leaders especially those neigbouring Zimbabwe to
break their ‘silence’ on the ongoing human and civic rights violations
In South Africa the
event took place in Musina, 15 Km. from the Zimbabwean border, starting
with a peaceful march in the centre of the town and culminating in a musical
concert and an over-night vigil at the Skoon Stadium.
"The action was
intended to promote strategies of working towards a negotiated political
settlement in Zimbabwe, with a genuine and transparent debate involving
not only political parties but all sections of society including trade
unions, faith based organisations and civil society organisations, for
the restoration of democracy in this country," said Hassan Lorgat
of the South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) which co-organised
the South African event.
heavy police presence at the border in Beitbridge, a delegation of women
activists led by Elinor Sisulu, a representative of Crisis in Zimbabwe
Coalition, sought to deliver a protest message to the Zimbabwean government
through the border authorities but were denied an audience.
In Zambia, close to
five thousand people gathered in the tourist capital Livingstone to participate
in the solidarity concert. ‘The situation in Zimbabwe cannot be ignored
by neighbouring countries, and in the absence of clear messages form African
leaders, the impression is given that Western countries are taking the
lead in delivering the hard messages on Zimbabwe," said CIVICUS Director
of Programmes, David Kalete.
Earlier in the afternoon,
a demonstration was held at Victoria Falls on the border with Zimbabwe,
where participants displayed placards bearing messages of adherence to
democratic principles, respect for broad citizen participation and freedom
of expression. The demonstration also attracted youth representatives
who were commemorating their Youth Day.
In Mozambique, the President
of the Manica City Council, where the events were to be held, notified
the coordinators 15 hours before the scheduled march, that the event would
have to be cancelled. Nevertheless, at dawn, a large crowd gathered in
the Provincial capital Chimoio to express their concern about this decision
from the local government and to demonstrate their solidarity nevertheless
with banners, T-shirts and messages of solidarity. Group leaders representing
numerous civil society organisations were surprised by this abrupt cancellation
and were concerned about the implications of this decision on their own
freedom of assembly. They expressed their criticism of the "quiet
diplomacy" which Mozambique like South Africa have adopted and which
was clearly not delivering results.
Kumi Naidoo, Secretary
General of CIVICUS said yesterday that "the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) needs to act with vision and courage on Zimbabwe if it
is to secure its own credibility with the citizens of the region".
For more information please contact
Florence Kiff, CIVICUS Communications Manager or
David Kalete, Director of Programmes on +27 11 833 5959,
or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit http://www.civicus.org
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