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Nigerian Nobel laureate urges Zimbabwe sanctions
July 21, 2005

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Africa should impose sanctions on Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's government, which is a "disgrace" to the continent, Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka said on Thursday.

"There is no question at all about (sanctions)," Soyinka said in a radio interview in South Africa. "Bulldozers have been turned into an instrument of governance and it is the ordinary people who are suffering ... it is a disgrace on the continent."

Soyinka, who won the Nobel literature prize in 1986, is in South Africa to deliver a lecture on Friday as part of the 87th birthday celebrations for anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

The author spent two years in detention in Nigeria for political activities and has been a voice for human rights in Africa since the 1960s.

Soyinka lambasted African leaders for failing to take a strong enough stance on Mugabe, who critics accuse of rigging elections and violating human rights.

"It's a notion of let us close ranks: the rest of the world is watching, the western ex-colonial powers are looking for any opportunity to point a finger," he said.

In recent weeks Mugabe's government has come in for fresh criticism for demolishing urban shantytowns in a campaign rights groups say has left at least 300,000 people homeless.

Zimbabwe says the campaign, dubbed "Operation Restore Order", is aimed at rooting out lawlessness and reasserting control over urban development.

Soyinka said Mugabe was typical of "rogues and monsters" who cling to power in Africa through undemocratic means, and that the policy of quiet diplomacy advocated by South Africa and some other African countries was failing to achieve real change in Zimbabwe.

"I think it's about time that it's shed. We've seen this in case of Zimbabwe, it entrenches a dictator even more firmly because he's confident that his criminalities will not receive the disapprobation ... of his colleagues," he said.

Mugabe, 81 and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, rejects criticism of his policies and says Zimbabwe is being punished by opponents of his land reform programme which seized white-owned farms to give to landless blacks.

Soyinka said it was Africa's particular responsibility to react when former African independence heroes go bad.

"When those leaders change character and become terrorists toward their own people we have a responsibility to use a language towards them as strong as the language of admiration that we used before," he said.

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