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NANGO won't budge
Kumbirai Mafunda, The Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
March 08, 2007

THE National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) has once again spurned renewed attempts by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to broker consultative discussions on the establishment of a national human rights commission, which faltered last year.

Influential rights and pro-democracy groups told The Financial Gazette this week that the UNDP had revived attempts to broker talks to discuss the setting up of the controversial human rights commission this month by lobbying individual rights and civic groups.

But NANGO, an umbrella body of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) this week maintained that it will not take part in the consultations unless the government first repeals harsh and repressive security laws, which are stifling its members' operations in Zimbabawe.

"Several organisations have so far been approached to endorse and support the commission as well as to attend an upcoming meeting and NANGO would like to advise that its position on not attending any consultations on the commission until efforts are made towards meeting pre-conditions, stands," reads part of a statement sent this week to NANGO affiliates.

NANGO spokesperson Fambai Ngirandi, said there was no basis for discussing the setting up of a rights commission when there was no letup in the government's suppression of people's rights. Ngirandi who deplored the UNDP's bullying tactics in trying to broker the meeting cited last month's clampdown on an opposition rally and the subsequent banning of rallies and demonstrations saying this infringed on the freedom of association and assembly.

"There hasn't been an honest broker in place. It is not the UNDP's role to support the government in imposing a human rights commission. Day in and day out the government is attacking us and they can't respect our very existence," said Ngirandi.

Authoritative civic groups and constitutional reform activists have previously criticised the plans to establish a national human rights commission, which were initiated last year saying the government is not qualified to monitor human rights issues because some state institutions and authorities have been implicated in human rights violations over the past seven years.

Rights groups say the human rights commission should only be a product of a holistic constitutional reform process aimed at entrenching democracy and human rights in the country.

This month's proposed meeting is the latest in a series of attempts to bring rights groups and the government to the negotiating table following the collapse last year of consultations to set up the contentious rights commission.

Zimbabwe's failure to uphold the rule of law and to address a widening human rights deficit has invited targeted travel and economic sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his lieutenants by western governments. Human rights watchdogs have in recent years ranked Zimbababwe among countries with the worst records for abusing human rights through lawlessness, restrictive laws and bad governance, a charge, which the government denies.

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