Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mugabe’s misrule must come to an end - Nordic ministers

Mugabe’s misrule must come to an end - Nordic ministers
Written by Chibaula Silwamba, Mutuna Chanda and Maluba Jere
Saturday, December 20, 2008 7:19:40 AM

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's misrule must come to an end, five foreign affairs ministers from Nordic countries have demanded.

And Africa Internally Displaced Persons Voice executive director Joseph Chilengi has observed that the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is now desperate.

According to a media statement from foreign affairs ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and made available to The Post in Lusaka yesterday by Danish Ambassador to Zambia Thomas Schjerbeck, the ministers demanded that the respect for human rights be reinstalled in Zimbabwe.

"The Nordic countries call for an end to the misrule of Robert Mugabe and of the respect for democratic principles and human rights; these are core issues behind the Nordic engagement and support for the liberation struggles in southern Africa," the ministers stated.

The ministers stated that the Nordic countries had a long tradition of engagement with Zimbabwe and other countries in southern Africa.

"Our partnership with countries in the region has historically been built on mutual trust, dialogue and the upholding of common values such as democratic principles and respect for human rights," the ministers stated. "Against this background, [we] the foreign ministers of the Nordic countries are appalled by the grave humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe which continues to deteriorate by the day.

The suffering of the people of Zimbabwe has recently been further aggravated by the outbreak of cholera. The curable disease has already demanded far too many lives."

The ministers observed that authorities in Zimbabwe alone hold the responsibility for the tragic situation the country was currently faced with.

"Violence and intimidation against the critics of the regime in Zimbabwe continue unabated. The Nordic countries are worried about the fate of human rights defender Jestina Mukoko and others and strongly demand that universal human rights are respected in Zimbabwe," they stated.

They called on the ruling Zanu-PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to reach an agreement without further delay and respecting the will of the people of Zimbabwe expressed in the elections of March 29, 2008.

"The Nordic countries remain committed to support the economic and social recovery of Zimbabwe aiming at the sustainable development of the country once a reliable and credible government has been formed and once tangible signs have been shown in key areas in particular human rights," the ministers stated.

And Chilengi, who is in Abuja in Nigeria attending the third session of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union, challenged the international community to urgently invest in emergency humanitarian support in Zimbabwe to save life as the country battles with cholera and a collapsed health system.

"The international community must, as a matter of immediate urgency, invest in emergency humanitarian support in Zimbabwe in order to save to life and to energise the people as they urgently need energy in order to enable them to participate in finding a political solution to the problems of their country," Chilengi stated.

"The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is 'now desperate'; it is likely to only worsen in the coming months as the country's political crisis continues. Zimbabwe may have no population by the time a political solution is found to their problem unless a massive humanitarian investment is undertaken by the international community at a level and scale unprecedented in the history of the political crisis.

He condemned the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for concentrating on generating reports on the situation instead of quickly mobilising resources to respond.

"The response of OCHA and the international community is unacceptable and should be condemned in the strongest terms. OCHA and the international community should be relevant to the common people in time of critical need as the people of Zimbabwe are.

OCHA should avoid being political and provide leadership in mobilising humanitarian response," he stated.

He regretted what he termed as the laxed approach by the international community to the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

"Now is the time for humanitarian response and not assessment missions, given how rapidly the situation is deteriorating," he stated.

Chilengi stressed that Zimbabweans needed food for them to actively participate in solving the problems that their country faced.

"Zimbabweans now are hungry and weak and therefore, cannot rise to the challenges of their country. They see their role in finding a solution to their country's problems as a distant risk. They are more concerned with what to eat now," stated Chilengi.

"The people of Zimbabwe cannot afford another failure by the international community to respond to their humanitarian situation that would give them energy that would allow them to tackle the formidable challenges ahead."

And the Zambia Social Forum (ZSF) has lodged an appeal to civil society and individuals in the country to make contributions that could save lives in Zimbabwe.

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