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Donnelly digs in heels on rights abuses

Dumisani Muleya

BRITAIN will continue to speak out against oppression and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe despite shrill official claims of colonialism and other forms of blackmail, Brit

ish High Commissioner Sir Brian Donnelly has said.

Donnelly said since he came to Zimbabwe two years ago the political and economic situation had dramatically deteriorated and his government was seriously concerned about it.

“Two years have now passed since I arrived in Zimbabwe. It has been a roller-coaster ride, with plenty of ups and downs and with seatbelts fastened most of the time,” he said in the latest edition of Britain & Zimbabwe magazine.

“Among the ups: prices – of almost everything, the number of people needing food assistance, political violence and polarisation, violations of human rights.”

Sir Brian said the downs included “economic growth, maize, wheat and tobacco production, fuel supplies, foreign trade and investment, the value of the Zim dollar, standards of healthcare and education, and tolerance.

“In short, by almost any measure, Zimbabwe is much worse off than when I arrived,” he said. “Why? One school of thought is that this sorry state is largely the responsibility of the British government (aided and abetted at different times by the United States, European Union and Australia). For some of it I’m even blamed personally.”

Donnelly said “an alternative explanation is that the current situation is the result of a series of calamitous policy decisions in which political ideology and survival have outweighed economic rationality and fundamental principles of governance and human rights”.He dismisses the first explanation about Britain’s colonial ambitions as “complete fiction”.

“From the standpoint of knowing exactly what the British government has and has not done over the last two years, I know which explanation I prefer – and it isn’t the first one!” Donnelly said.

“Sovereignty cannot, and should not, be used as a barrier against international scrutiny where civil rights are concerned. Britain has learned this lesson over the last 40 years in Northern Ireland.”

London would, he said, remain undeterred in its condemnation of tyranny.

“So ‘yes’ we do speak out – and urge others to do so – when we see flagrant violations of international standards of political and human rights,” he said.

“Yes we do support the right of the people of Zimbabwe to elect their leaders freely and fairly. Yes we do support the efforts of regional states to promote reconciliation. But ‘no’ we don’t have any malign or subversive intent.”

Donnelly said Britain, which has donated more that £50 million to alleviate the food crisis, would continue to provide humanitarian assistance despite the political stand-off.

British Secretary of State for International Development, Baroness Valerie Amos, writing in the same magazine, said Harare’s imperialist claims against London were ridiculous.

“Cooperation is often contrasted with colonialism and I know that in Zimbabwe the British government is accused of wanting to surreptitiously ‘recolonise’ the country,” she said.

“But the days of colonialism – the imposition of values and exploitation of resources by force, and domination of one people by another – are gone.”

Amos said inter-party talks between the ruling Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and an end to intimidation and violence, were the only way out the current crisis.

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