Friday, June 20, 2008

Mugabe Regime Blocks Humanitarian Aid

CHRISTIAN AID has condemned the arrest and court appearance of staff in its partner organisations in Zimbabwe. The intimidation of workers from the Christian Alliance, the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe (SCMZ), and the Ecumenical Support Services occurred after the government’s decision last week to suspend all food distribution by the humanitarian agencies.

The SCMZ sees the arrest and detention of five of its staff, the ransacking of its offices, and the confiscation of computers, digital cameras, and even a minibus, as a move to incapacitate the organisation and as part of the broader campaign of orchestrated intimidation. The organisation has been encouraging Christian students and youth to exercise their rights and responsibilities in the run-off presidential election next Friday.

“This is the time for the whole world to see and judge for itself the true characteristic of a government which has many times tried to convince the world that it is not only legitimate but democratic,” a statement from SCMZ said. “The government has abdicated its duties by declaring war on its own people, and by creating an atmosphere of general insecurity among the populace.”

Four million people in the country are dependent on food aid, and the Zimbabwe Christian Council (ZCA) has condemned its use as a political weapon. “We have hunger here, and things are just getting worse,” said Useni Sibanda of ZCA, whose offices were also raided. “The most vulnerable will be the most affected. There is a general food shortage, there is no food in the stores, and these people have no alternative — they are totally dependent on the food agencies.”
Shocking accounts of murder, torture, and violence against thousands of opposition supporters continue to be reported, with raids extending from poor townships to the suburbs.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, declared after a visit to Zimbabwe last week that the country was now a police state. “The levels of intimidation I witnessed underlie the crucial importance of deploying large numbers of both international and local-election monitors for the 27 June presidential run-off,” he said.

President Mugabe has warned that his self-styled “war veterans” are ready to go to war if Morgan Tsvangirai should win the election. Members of the armed forces and police have already been forced to cast ballots in favour of Mugabe before polling day. Tens of thousands of voters have had to flee the violence, effectively disenfranchising themselves, as they can vote only in the wards where they are registered.

Zimbabwean women have warned the United Nations that they are watching “a silent genocide” unfurl in their country. A delegation of women to the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva called in a submission last week for an end to the violence, and the protection of women and girls in the post-election catastrophe.

“The violence persists and is real. No election observers are yet in the country, despite our calls, appeals, cries to the Southern African development community, the African Union, and to the United Nations,” they said. “We are watching a silent genocide of the poor and powerless, due to politically induced murders, criminal actions, and the collapse of basic services, resulting in deaths due to lack of health care, food, and shelter for the displaced. Most of the affected are women and children.”

Women’s Watch, another campaigning group in Zimbabwe, reports: “Burning plastic on skin, rape, torture, and even murdering rival party supporters have become familiar outrages. As the presidential run-off approaches, the volume of political violence has been turned up, the brutality is far more intense than it has ever been before, and the force used has been ratcheted up to incredibly high levels.”

Roman Catholic bishops have called for the base camps from which militias terrorise defenceless rural populations to be disbanded as a matter of urgency. They appealed for immediate deployment of regional, African Union, and other independent monitors throughout the country to observe the elections, and declared: “We insist on the principles of a credible election process.”
The WCC has called on churches to observe a season of prayer for the people and government of Zimbabwe, beginning on Sunday. “It is impossible to overstate the importance of this election — its fairness, its outcome, and its aftermath. Events in the coming weeks will challenge the people of Zimbabwe and the world to find means of overcoming violence in the exercise of democracy, and the results will influence the future of the nation and the region,” a letter to WCC member churches said.
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Source: Church Times

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