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

  • Truth about Zimbabwe
    The New York Times
    July 27, 2005

    Anna Tibaijuka, the highest-ranking African woman at the United Nations, is not one of the boys. Maybe that's why she did not mince her words about the horrors going on in Zimbabwe that Africa's male political establishment seems so afraid to talk about. Late last month, Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent Tibaijuka, a Tanzanian economist who is executive director of the UN agency that looks out for the interests of slum dwellers, to investigate the mass destruction of slums and shantytowns by Robert Mugabe's dictatorial regime.

    She has now reported that the forcible clearances, which began in May and have cost 700,000 people their homes or livelihoods, were carried out in an "indiscriminate and unjustified manner" with "indifference to human suffering." The damage from this "virtual state of emergency," she reported, will take years to undo. In the name of the United Nations, she demanded that the razing of homes and businesses be immediately halted, that the campaign's architects be prosecuted and that the victims of this "man-made disaster" be compensated. It is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and hundreds of thousands of uprooted people, many of them women and children, are shivering in tents.

    Mugabe, a tyrant, is increasingly out of touch with reality. He is starving and killing his own people, and the unwillingness of some of Africa's most prestigious leaders, like Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, to challenge him publicly is especially disturbing at a time when these same leaders prate on about a commitment to accountable governments and peer review of one another's performance.

    Tibaijuka's unflinching honesty shames their silence.

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