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slams Zimbabwe's slum destruction
Nick Wadhams, Associated Press (AP)
July 22, 2005
-- Zimbabwe's destruction of urban slums is a "disastrous venture"
that has left 700,000 people without homes or jobs, violated international
law and created a grave humanitarian crisis, according to excerpts
of a harshly worded U.N. report.
The report details the devastating extent of Operation Murambatsvina,
or Drive Out Trash, for the first time. It says a further 2.4 million
people have been affected by the countrywide campaign that began
with little warning on May 19 and has seen thousands of shantytowns,
ramshackle markets and makeshift homes demolished.
to target illegal dwellings and structures and to clamp down on
alleged illicit activities, (the operation) was carried out in an
indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with indifference to human
suffering," says the executive summary, obtained late Thursday by
The Associated Press.
The report, using unusually harsh language for the United Nations,
says the operation clearly violates international law and demands
the government stop the destruction immediately.
Anna Tibaijuka, a U.N. envoy sent to Zimbabwe to study the effects
of the campaign, delivered the document to Secretary-General Kofi
Annan earlier this week. She suggested an independent probe could
help decide if there was criminal negligence leading to any deaths.
The Zimbabwe government was given the final report on Wednesday
but has made no public comment. The full report was to be released
to the public on Friday.
President Robert Mugabe's government has defended the operation
as an urban cleanup drive, and has promised to help the displaced
rebuild. His rivals say the campaign is aimed at breaking up opposition
strongholds among the urban poor and forcing them into rural areas
where they can be more easily controlled by chiefs sympathetic to
But the report said that even if the operation is an urban cleanup
drive, the campaign -- which some have called Operation Restore
Order -- has been a "crash" operation that will take Zimbabwe years
to recover from.
"Even if motivated by a desire to ensure a semblance of order in
the chaotic manifestations of rapid urbanization and rising poverty
characteristic of African cities, nonetheless Operation Restore
Order turned out to be a disastrous venture," the report said.
The government has pledged $325 million to provide 1.2 million houses
or building plots by 2008, but economists say Zimbabwe can't afford
such a project at a time of triple-digit inflation and a severe
food crisis, the report said.
On Wednesday, police raided nine churches in the second-largest
city of Bulawayo, rounding up people sheltering there since their
homes were destroyed. Between 50 and 100 people were arrested at
each site, said the Rev. Kevin Thompson of the city's Presbyterian
"It was pretty brutal and horrific," he said. "They had elderly
folk, and they were piling them onto vehicles; they were frog-marching
children ... who had been asleep, and Bulawayo is very cold at the
The executive summary seen by AP does not assign blame for the destruction,
saying only that it was launched on the advice of a few people who
were not identified. Yet, it suggests that the act might qualify
as a crime against humanity and urged Zimbabwe to prosecute those
Tibaijuka's report said the clearance campaign was based on a set
of colonial-era laws and policies "that were used as a tool of segregation
and social exclusion." The African nation gained independence from
Britain in 1980.
"The humanitarian consequences of Operation Restore Order are enormous,"
She called for a massive international humanitarian operation to
help the masses of poor people left without housing or jobs.
Tibaijuka is the Tanzanian head of Nairobi-based U.N. Habitat, which
deals with the plight of cities.
African nations on the 15-member Security Council have so far kept
the crisis in Zimbabwe off the council's agenda. But several U.N.
diplomats said they are hoping to get Tibaijuka to brief members
on the report next week.
* Associated Press reporters Edith M. Lederer and Michael Hartnack
contributed to this story.
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