AU commission condemns Zimbabwe

BY A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT BANJUL, Gambia - Finally breaking its silence, an African Union commission has condemned unequivocally the Mugabe regime's gross human rights violations, its suppression of freedom of speech and assembly, and has called on Harare to heed UN strictures over forced remova


The unprecedented criticism came from the AU’s Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) which met in Banjul Nov. 26 – Dec. 5, but only released its damning report last week – apparently to give the regime a chance to reply.

The response from Harare was predictable, first silence, then a diatribe from Information Minister Tichaona Jokonya in which he added African nations to the ever-lengthening list of those, including UN envoys, who get paid by the West to denounce Zimbabwe. He said the ACHPR has lied to please its Western funders.

“What do you expect from them (ACHPR)?” Jokonya, a former Zimbabwe envoy to the UN, told ZimOnline, “They are looking for money and what better way to make money than to vilify Zimbabwe. Their resolutions are a fallacy & We are not going to accept this report.”

Some analysts believe, however, that the highly significant report, coming from an arm of the AU, will increase pressure on African leaders to abandon solidarity with Mugabe.
African heads of state and government are due to consider the report for either adoption or rejection at their next annual meeting due early February.

“It will be difficult for the government to counter this,” Iden Wetherell, an editor with the Zimbabwe Independent group of newspapers, told Britain’s Guardian newspaper. “African institutions are now holding their leaders accountable. Zimbabwe’s delinquency can no longer be swept under the carpet of African solidarity.”

Elinor Sisulu, director of the Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition’s South African office, described the report as a “stance the continent can be proud of”. “This gives much needed encouragement to Zimbabweans, particularly those working in human rights and civil society,” she said. “Of course, the Mugabe government will try to ignore it, but it comes from an African institution run by highly respected Africans.”

Among other things, the ACHPR urged Mugabe to allow an AU delegation to undertake a fact-finding mission. It said it was “alarmed” by the number of internally displaced person and the violation of fundamental individual and collective human rights resulting from the forced evictions being carried out. The UN estimated that some 700 000 people were made homeless or jobless by the brutal urban cleanup which began last May.

The commission found that the Mugabe regime has violated the AU’s charter, which Zimbabwe has signed, as well as other international laws including the UN declaration of human rights. It urged the regime to repeal several repressive laws such as those preventing press and broadcasting freedom, and freedom of expression and assembly.

In Harare, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the findings had established that the judiciary in Zimbabwe is seriously compromised and is no longer the guarantor and protector of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

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