Back to Index
opposition seeks support at U.N.
Mithre J. Sandrasagra, Inter Press Servive (IPS)
April 25, 2007
- A group of Zimbabwean citizens -- among them activists, lawyers,
journalists and leaders of the democratic opposition -- were at
the U.N. Wednesday to shine an international light on the brutal
government crackdown they have suffered.
a first-hand account of torture and arbitrary detention of activists
and innocent bystanders perpetrated by the police with the backing
of President Robert Mugabe.
officers told us to put our phones on the ground and then they started
to beat us," said Grace Kwinjeh, speaking at a press briefing about
events that occurred during a prayer meeting organised on Mar. 11
by Christian Alliance, a coalition of churches in Zimbabwe.
"They had people
whom they had specifically targeted," said Kwinjeh, who serves as
deputy secretary for international relations of the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), the Zimbabwean opposition party led by
people by name," Kwinjeh said. "Morgan Tsvangirai, what do you do?"
they asked before beating him.
hours later, following High Court orders to either release the activists
or charge them, Kwinjeh and others were released, but not before
one of their number was shot and killed.
one of only two activists given permission to leave the country
to seek medical treatment. She was allowed to leave for six weeks,
but was arrested again at the airport the next time she tried to
The police assault
on the activists is part of the ongoing crackdown by Mugabe's government
against critics, which has gathered pace as economic hardships worsen.
has banned rallies and demonstrations in Harare, and Mugabe has
given police the right to use force against opponents engaging in
leader, who has held power since 1980, congratulated police for
curbing the "criminal tendencies" of the opposition party at Independence
Day celebrations last week.
Association of Doctors for Human Rights has expressed its concern
at the growing number of activists being treated for injuries inflicted
at the hands of the police.
Last week the
regime expelled the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
from the country and is imposing restrictions on all remaining Zimbabwean
non-governmental organisations, choking off humanitarian aid to
the beleaguered population.
are struggling to survive in a country where the inflation rate
has exceeded 2,000 percent, there is widespread unemployment and
shortages of food and other basic goods -- evidence of economic
decline ascribed to government mismanagement.
the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa's latest economic report
on the continent, only one country -- Zimbabwe -- recorded a negative
growth rate in 2006.
"We are trying
to meet with as many delegations as possible while in New York to
build support," said Kwinjeh's lawyer, Otto Saki, acting director
Lawyers for Human Rights.
So far, they
have arranged meetings with the delegations of Senegal and Rwanda.
the group would try to meet with the representatives from China
and South Africa, who have previously supported Mugabe at the U.N.,
Saki told IPS: "They have not been forthcoming."
Union imposed targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002, and the United
State in 2003, in response to human rights violations and allegations
of rigged parliamentary and presidential elections in 2000 and 2002.
Saki said that
he and Kwinjeh were especially seeking support from African delegations
because the sanctions by the United States and EU had resulted in
weakened support from within the region.
A special summit
of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) at
the end of March reaffirmed their solidarity with Mugabe as the
bloc appealed for sanctions against Zimbabwe to be lifted.
Zimbabwe's economic woes on Western nations, who he accuses of undermining
the Southern African country in response to a controversial farm
redistribution programme, ostensibly aimed at giving property to
landless, black Zimbabweans.
threat to the existence of human beings and human rights defenders
has become the institutions that we have," Saki said. "It has become
the police, it has become the law enforcement agencies, it has become
our central intelligence organs, who have gone out of their way
to beat up, maim, kill, torture and carry out abductions."
are torn up right in front of you," Saki said.
continues beyond the events of the 11th of March," stressed Tawanda
Mutasah, executive director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern
Africa, emphasising the need for international action.
is under the auspices of the Open Society Institute, a U.S.-based
NGO that champions democracy and human rights globally.
the African leaders who have attempted to address the deteriorating
situation in Zimbabwe. Specifically, he pointed out that Ghana's
President John Agyekum Kufuor has said that he is embarrassed by
the human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
Mwanawasa of Zambia, Zimbabwe's neighbour, has likened Zimbabwe
to a sinking Titanic, Mutasah said, and President Festus Mogae of
Botswana has also indicated his concern about human rights abuses
SADC has appointed
South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate in the political
crisis in Zimbabwe. The South African leader has only a year in
which to help prepare the ground for free and fair presidential
and parliamentary elections in 2008, which Mugabe has said he will
arrests and assault on senior members of the MDC, British UN Ambassador
Emyr Jones Parry asked for the briefing of the Security Council.
Since the Mar.
11 incidents, 600 more activists have been abducted, according to
Kwinjeh and Saki.
South Africa's U.N. Ambassador, speaking as President of the Security
Council, initially said he would not permit the briefing on the
grounds that the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe "is not
a matter threatening international peace and security" -- the council's
late March, South Africa reluctantly agreed to convene the briefing
on the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe.
to reporters that the problem in Zimbabwe is a regional one, and
as such Zimbabwe's neighbours are doing all they can to address
African efforts on Zimbabwe must not shut out international concern
and responsibility," Mutasah said Wednesday.
Over the past
seven years since the crisis broke out in February 2000, there have
been numerous efforts that SADC has engaged in related to Zimbabwe
that have "not borne success," he stressed, "The U.N. has a responsibility
to protect citizens who are suffering state terror in Zimbabwe and
that responsibility should not be ousted by the efforts that SADC
is involved with, they should be complementary efforts."
We are concerned
that what has been happening in Pretoria is "not only quiet diplomacy,"
but also "active solidarity" with Mugabe's regime. "South Africa
has actually helped embolden and prop up the regime in Harare,"
groups in Zimbabwe there is broad support for the new U.N. Human
Rights Council and the Security Council to play a role, according
to Mutasah, and for the international community to encourage South
Africa to play a greater role.
not be blocked out of the international agenda," Mutasah stressed.
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.