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  • Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles

  • Zimbabwe says West must help after township blitz
    MacDonald Dzirutwe, Reuters
    July 22, 2005

    HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe urged the West to help it rebuild after a government blitz on shantytowns, saying on Friday sanctions were partly to blame for the conditions that drove residents to construct the illegal housing.

    The comments in the official Herald newspaper came as the United Nations prepared to release a report on Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's shanty demolitions that left some 200,000 people homeless.

    Boniface Chidyausiku, Zimbabwe's permanent representative to the United Nations, told the Herald Mugabe's government now wanted the international community to help it reconstruct.

    "They can raise funding so that Government can provide cheaper housing to needy people. One would call upon Britain and the European Union to stop their campaign to vilify our economy," Chidyausiku said.

    "Were it not for their sanctions, our economy wouldn't be where it is today ... the international community should, therefore, consider themselves equal partners and have a role to play in terms of pulling resources together to build a better Zimbabwe."

    The author of the U.N. report, UN-Habitat executive director Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, said after visiting Zimbabwe more than 2 million people have been affected by the demolitions.

    She described them as ill-conceived, inhumane and an economic mistake.

    Chidyausiku said the government was studying the report, but rejected suggestions that Harare had a 48-hour deadline to respond.

    "The President will make a comment at the appropriate time," he said.

    The report, commissioned by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, breaks the relative silence in the United Nations over Mugabe's policy dubbed "Operation Restore Order".

    Mugabe's government said the demolition campaign was necessary to root out lawlessness in Zimbabwe's vast urban shantytowns.

    Zimbabwe's opposition said the campaign has targeted its strongholds among the urban poor, forcing its supporters into rural areas where they could be more easily controlled by chiefs sympathetic to the government.

    Civic and religious organisations have described the crackdown as a violation of human rights, and Western nations have unsuccessfully tried to put the issue on the U.N. Security Council's agenda.

    Envoys who have seen the 98-page U.N. document, which will be made public later on Friday, said it sharply criticizes Harare for bulldozing urban slums and insists it should stop razing the shantytowns.

    The European Union and the United States imposed limited sanctions on Mugabe and other senior officials citing alleged human rights abuses and opposition charges of vote rigging by Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party. Mugabe denies the charges.

    The former British colony is grappling with its worst economic crisis in years, shown in unemployment of over 70 percent, one of the highest inflation in the world and shortages foreign currency, fuel and food.

    But Mugabe, 81 and in power for the last 25 years, says Zimbabwe is being punished by those opposed to his land reform program in which the government seized large tracts of white-owned land to redistribute among landless blacks.

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