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

  • UN envoy backs Tibaijuka report
    Njabulo Ncube, The Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
    December 08, 2005

    JAN Egeland, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, has told President Robert Mugabe’s government that the global body stood by the damning report authored by Tanzanian technocrat Anna Tibaijuka — sparking another potentially embarrassing diplomatic row.

    Sources said Egeland’s frank remarks about the shocking humanitarian crisis in Harare and Bulawayo infuriated the authorities who had hoped the UN secretary-general’s envoy would be more diplomatic and lenient in his final assessment than Tibaijuka, who visited the country in July.

    Egeland had no kind words for the authorities, who were hoping for soothing remarks. Unlike Tibaijuka, who waited until her departure to issue uncomplimentary statements after a two-week visit, Egeland chose to shoot from the hip right on Zimbabwean soil.

    The UN envoy hinted that during his meeting with various government officials, the authorities had admitted that the widely condemned Operation Murambatsvina had disastrous consequences on the population.

    "I came here to reiterate my colleague’s (Tibaijuka) findings," said Egeland. "It is a UN report and not Anna’s report. The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is very serious and prospects are growing and also very worrying. The need of people that want assistance is big and growing," he said.

    "The shelter campaign was the worst possible thing at the worst possible time. It created a lot of problems as far as the humanitarian situation is concerned."

    Tibaijuka noted in her report that there was no collective decision-making with respect to the conception and implementation of the nationwide demolitions of slums. About 700 000 urbanites were rendered homeless while 2.4 million people were deprived of their livelihoods, said Tibaijuka, who also slammed the role of the police and army during the controversial operation.

    In its defence, the government accused Tibaijuka of using "value-laden and judgmental language, which clearly demonstrated in-built bias" against Harare and the operation.

    Egeland, who disagreed with President Robert Mugabe over the eviction campaign when they met at State House on Tuesday morning, spoke of a serious humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe as described by Tibaijuka after spending two weeks in Zimbabwe in July this year in the aftermath of Murambatsvina, which critics claim had all the hallmarks of a military operation.

    In a media briefing on Tuesday night, the UN emergency relief boss said his four-day working visit to Zimbabwe had revealed that millions of Zimbabweans were suffering and facing numerous problems as a result of the operation and that its successor, Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle, had failed dismally to address the problems caused by the clean-up operation.

    Egeland said: "There is not enough shelter to house those people that have been affected by Murambatsvina. I saw the houses the government has built and I applaud the attempt but there are much fewer than the number of people sleeping out there. It would have been good if the houses had been built before the demolitions."

    Kofi Annan dispatched Egeland after President Mugabe invited the UN chief to visit Zimbabwe when they met on the sidelines of a UN meeting in New York in September this year.

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