Zimbabwe: Officials try to block Mugabe meeting with Amnesty International’s secretary general Irene Khan

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Amnesty International’s secretary general Irene Khan who is in Zimbabwe has not yet met with President Robert Mugabe as their meeting awaiting approval.

It emerged today that there is growing worry in the presidency for Khan to have a face to face meeting with Mugabe. Sources say Zanu PF hardliners are blocking the meeting fearing that “Khan would ask damaging questions to them”.

Khan, arrived in Harare last weekend and on Monday met influential Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and also held talks with Presidential Affairs Minister met Didymus Mutasa and Education Minister David Coltart.

Her visit to Zimbabwe is the first by a top official of the world rights body in many years. She is on Thursday scheduled to address a press conference in Harare.

Amnesty, among the most outspoken critics of Mugabe’s controversial human rights record, had said in a statement last week that in addition to meeting government officials and human rights defenders, Khan hoped to meet the Zimbabwean leader during her trip to Harare.

Zimbabwe has a long history of gross human rights abuses since 1980. Hundreds of opposition political activists were killed last year during a violent general election.

The new Harare administration has established a national healing ministerial team that will address the violence that characterised the troubled country especially in the run-up to last year’s run off poll.

Political violence that followed then opposition MDC party’s shock victory in presidential and parliamentary elections last year is said to have killed at least 200 opposition supporters and displaced 200 000 others.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who outpolled the 85 year old Mugabe in last March bloody election but failed to secure the margin to take power, withdrew from a June 27 run-off poll saying widespread violence against his supporters made a free and fair vote impossible.

But Mugabe with the backing of army generals went ahead with the presidential run-off poll despite Tsvangirai’s withdrawal. Later he was forced to negotiate a power sharing settlement with the opposition after his victory received worldwide condemnation, leading to the formation of a unity government in February.

Amnesty International has challenged Zimbabwe’s inclusive government
to impose the rule of law in the country and that the administration acts against state agents and government officials who continue to violate human rights.

But it said it was concerned about the apparent lack of political will by the power-sharing government to create an environment in which human rights and media workers could freely do their work.

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