Peace days marred by arrests as police clamp down of protesters

police_againist_publicAs Zimbabweans united to pray for peace in the country this weekend, 15 people were arrested merely for wearing black in protest at the governments campaign towards national healing.
(Pictured: Zimbabwean Police Advancing towards protesters)

The 15 members of the pressure group, Restoration of Human Rights (ROHR) Zimbabwe were hauled into custody in Harare on Saturday, after police were apparently tipped off about a planned ROHR protest. The group had urged members to wear black in protest against the three Peace days gazetted by Robert Mugabe last week, and to show solidarity for victims of political persecution and violence. A demonstration was also planned to march peacefully to parliament.

But on Saturday, a bus loaded with 12 black-attired ROHR members on their way to the demonstration in the city centre, was rerouted to Mbare police station. Three other people, not associated with the ROHR group, were also arrested en-route, because police thought they were part of the demonstration. The 15 people were detained and interrogated for ten hours before they were released. By which time the peaceful ROHR demonstration in the city had been disrupted by the police, who dispersed the rest of the ROHR members.

ROHRs spokesperson Edgar Chikuvire told SW Radio Africa on Monday that the arrests casts shadows on any hopes that national healing can ever be achieved when people are unnecessarily arrested for peacefully expressing their displeasure with Government processes.

There cannot be peace without national healing and that cannot come before truth, justice and compensation to victims of political violence, Chikuvire said That should be approached holistically and whole heartedly rather than calling for symbolic days and monumental moments celebrating new found peace and unity, while violence against civilians still continues.

The Peace days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday had been set aside as national days of prayer, and the start of the campaign on Friday saw the governments leaders call for an end to political attacks. But the campaign has been widely labelled as hypocritical, with Mugabe shifting the blame of the countrys destruction away from himself or his party. Civil society groups, who snubbed the governments invitation to attend the Peace days campaign, said the invitation to participate was aimed at legitimising a flawed process. The groups, united under the cluster on National Healing within the Civil Society Monitoring Mechanism (CISCOMM), demanded that the coalition government declare that there would be no amnesty for those who committed human rights violations.

We see the governments belated effort to involve civil society as a lame attempt at legitimacy and a ploy by government or sections of it, to gloss over the serious and ongoing violations in the country, the groups said.

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