Thursday, 19 June 2008

ZIMBABWE: Rights Groups Appeal for World Intervention in Crisis

NAIROBI, June 17, 2008 (CISA) -Zimbabwean civil society activists visiting Kenya appealed to Africa and the rest of the world to pressure President Robert Mugabe to end the people’s suffering in the southern African nation.The world should demand that Mugabe allows humanitarian agencies to distribute food aid in the country that is facing mass starvation and gross human rights violations, the activists said.They said Mugabe has set up structures of violence, comprising war veterans, the army and militias to coerce people especially in rural areas to vote for him in the presidential run-off on June 27.The activists were from Bulawayo Agenda, the Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe Chapter, Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, Youth for Democracy, Zimbabwe Peace Trust, the Zimbabwean newspaper ‘The Independent’ and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).The representatives said that Mugabe has stopped all volunteer organisations in the country from working and his government was giving food aid only to its supporters.Gordon Moyo, executive director of Bulawayo Agenda, said, “What brings us here today are the current developments in our country. We would like Mugabe to respect the laws of the country, to respect the principles of running elections as quantified in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) guidelines.”Africa should demand for free and fair elections, which are unlikely if the current state violence and violation of human rights continues.“We are going around Africa attending the AU summit; we are lobbying the leadership in SADC and in the continent as a whole to protect Zimbabwe. The AU has a moral obligation to protect the people who are harmless and defenceless,” Moyo said.If Mugabe declared himself a winner the run-off, Africa should condemn him and bar him from travelling outside Zimbabwe, Moyo said.The activists said some 4 million Zimbabweans are in desperate need of food.Frank Chikowore, a journalist detained for 17 days in deplorable conditions, said there was a serious assault on media freedom and appealed to African leaders to demand freedom of the Press in Zimbabwe.African and world leaders should hold Mugabe accountable for the “slow-motion genocide” he is committing, said Maureen Kademaunga of the Media Monitoring Project-Zimbabwe. Mugabe is using young people to inflict fear, torture people and destroy property.Many people have lost their documents and are unlikely to vote, Kademanunga,who was recently detained for holding a meeting, said.Silas Gweshe, an MDC parliamentary candidate who lost in the March 29 elections, said the houses of four councillors who supported him were burnt down. He lost all personal property and is on the run.

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