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Homepage > Publication Type > Open Letters > Protect the People of Zimbabwe

Protect the People of Zimbabwe

Brussels  |   30 Jun 2005

The International community must take bold new action to address the worsening crisis in Zimbabwe.

The government's blitz campaign to evict people from their homes or markets -- called Operation Murambatsvina, or "Drive Out Rubbish" -- has left over 300,000 persons homeless and has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation.

"This campaign flies in the face of the government's obligations to protect its citizens", says Crisis Group President Gareth Evans. "It provides the gravest proof yet that the situation in Zimbabwe requires more effective international engagement".

In letters to African and international leaders (full text below), Evans describes the steps the international community must now take.

Leaders must strongly condemn and demand an immediate end to the mass forced evictions; demand unrestricted access for humanitarian aid; harmonize, strengthen, and enforce targeted sanctions; create a joint task force to examine the flow of assets associated with senior ruling ZANU-PF party figures; support the new UN Envoy, Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka; support an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate the use of food and shelter as political weapons; and insist on respect for the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons.

The international community should press the government and ZANU-PF to initiate discussions about a credible transition process leading to democratic reform, restoration of the rule of law and economic recovery. They should also expand and improve assistance to the truly democratic forces in the country.

The U.S. and UK should take the additional step of appointing a Special Envoy for Zimbabwe to tour African capitals and promote a united U.S./UK/African policy response to the situation in Zimbabwe.

"With unemployment already around 70 per cent and food shortages affecting half the population, Zimbabwe is a ticking time bomb", says Evans. "It is time for the international community to step in and protect the people of Zimbabwe".


30 June 2005 

[UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré; AU Chairperson President Olusegun Obasanjo; European Commission President José Manuel Barroso; Secretary General of the Commonwealth Don McKinnon; U.S. President George W. Bush; UK Prime Minister Tony Blair; and  South African President Thabo Mbeki]

I am writing to urge you to take bold new action to address the worsening crisis in Zimbabwe. Over the past month, the government has launched a blitz campaign to evict hundreds of thousands from their homes or markets. Conservative estimates indicate the crackdown has already left over 300,000 persons homeless.

Operation Murambatsvina – "Drive Out Rubbish" – exacerbates an already dire humanitarian situation. With unemployment already around 70 per cent and food shortages affecting half the population, Zimbabwe is a ticking time bomb. This operation is designed to weaken centres of opposition support, prevent popular unrest in the face of the country's disastrous downward economic spiral, and address by force Zimbabwe's chronic shortage of agricultural labour.

Such action flies in the face of the government’s obligations to protect its citizens. It is time for the international community to step in and protect the people of Zimbabwe. While yesterday’s announcement by the AU that it will send its Special Rapporteur on IDPs from the African Commission on Human and People's Rights to Zimbabwe on a fact finding mission is welcome, if belated, recognition of the scale of the problem, much more needs to be done both by both the AU and the wider international community. The International Crisis Group urges the following urgent steps:

  • Strongly condemn and demand an immediate end to the mass forced evictions.
  • Demand unrestricted access for humanitarian aid.
  • Harmonize, strengthen, and enforce targeted sanctions. The recent expansion of the EU sanctions against senior ZANU-PF officials is an important step forward. The rest of the international community, including the U.S., AU, and Commonwealth nations, must expand, tighten, and enforce these targeted sanctions. A united position will greatly enhance the effectiveness of these measures.
  • Create a joint U.S./EU/AU/Commonwealth task force to examine the flow of assets associated with senior ZANU-PF figures. The US Office of Foreign Asset Control and the UK Treasury International Financial Services Team should lead this endeavour and be specifically tasked with identifying front companies and relatives being used to circumvent sanctions.
  • Support the new UN Envoy, Mrs. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, the Special Envoy for Human Settlement Issues in Zimbabwe, by pressuring the government of Zimbabwe to ensure there are no delays in her visit, cooperate fully with her, and provide strong support for implementation of her recommendations.
  • The U.S. and UK should appoint a Special Envoy for Zimbabwe to tour African capitals and promote a united U.S./UK/African policy response to the situation in Zimbabwe.
  • Support an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate the use of food and shelter as political weapons. The inquiry should include whether government actions to deny food and shelter are sufficiently systematic, widespread, and focused on opposition supporters to warrant referral to the UN Security Council. In addition, the African Union should urge the African Commission on Human and People's Rights to investigate the issue urgently.
  • Insist on respect for the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), as provided for in treaties to which Zimbabwe is a party.
  • Press the government and the ruling ZANU-PF party to initiate discussions about a credible transition process leading to democratic reform, restoration of the rule of law and economic recovery.
  • Expand and improve assistance to the truly democratic forces in Zimbabwe looking to promote respect for human rights and a peaceful and speedy transition.

Operation "Drive Out Rubbish" is the latest and gravest proof that the situation in Zimbabwe requires more effective international engagement. I urge you to act at once to fulfil the international community's responsibility to protect the people in Zimbabwe.

Sincerely,

GARETH EVANS

President

 
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