Zimbabwe: Mugabe snubs Amnesty International chief

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Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan on Thursday said
Zimbabwe’s government has failed to curb human rights abuses a situation that would narrow any chances of the country getting meaningful financial assistance.

She said,” Although the level of political violence is significantly less compared to last year, the human rights situation is precarious and the socio-economic conditions are desperate,”

“Persistent and serious human rights violations, combined with the failure to introduce reform of the police, army and security forces or address impunity, and the lack of clear commitment on some parts of the government are real obstacles that need to be confronted,” said Khan.

Khan’s visit was the first by an Amnesty international secretary general and the group’s only high-level mission in the last 10 years of economic crisis.
It was seen as a sign of political openness after what critics say was President Robert Mugabe’s repressive one-party rule.

However, Khan failed to have a face to face meeting with Mugabe after she was “ constantly told by the presidents office that he is busy”. She is scheduled to hold talks Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in London on Monday.

Khan said no serious efforts are being made to encourage the reconciliation process giving some Zanu PF members the leeway to use violence as a legitimate tool to crush political opponents, “No serious efforts have been made to reform the security sector. No major investigation or prosecution has been brought against those responsible for state sponsored political violence in recent years. Some elements of Zanu PF still see the use of violence as a legitimate tool to crush political opponents” she said.

Amnesty International boss said she received “no clear indication from the government as to whether, how or when institutional reform particularly on security sector will take place”

“Whenever we raised the issue on human rights change, the government
answered that it needed more resources. Ending attacks on human rights
defenders, lifting restrictions on the media and allowing public protesters do not need money, they only require will” said khan.

Khan challenged Mugabe and Tsvangirai to help end violence by publicly
instructing their members to refrain from violence. “For the climate of intimidation to end President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai must make public statements clearly instructing all party activist to stop harassment, intimidation and threats against perceived political opponents, including teachers and lawyers” she said.

Although progress on human rights is slow, Khan urged the international community to expand its humanitarian assistance and focus on primary education, saying that all primary school fees and levies must be abolished.

“Because of their inability to pay fees, parents are being forced to make impossible choices, between feeding their children or educating them, between sending their son or daughter to school. The children of Zimbabwe are paying too high a price for the political failure of their government” said khan.

Tsvangirai is on a world tour to drum up financial support for Zimbabwe’s fragile unity government. The southern african nation’s poor human rights record is blocking aid from western donors.

The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Norway and the United States have
committed themselves to providing “humanitarian aid” so far – most of it channelled through western NGOs and the World Bank. Direct aid will only be restored after certain benchmarks are met, the countries said.

But Zimbabwean officials say the government needs direct funding to meet its civil service wage bill, restore social services and recapitalise industry hit hard by the country’s 10-year economic and political crisis which appears finally under control following the establishment of a unity government on February 11.

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