Johannesburg – International rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, on Thursday, said it was ‘way past time’ for the African Union to intervene in Zimbabwe’s political and economic crises.
New York-based HRW made the appeal on the eve of an AU summit beginning in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Monday.
On Monday, southern African leaders will also be holding their third crisis summit on Zimbabwe in under a year.
South Africa’s foreign affairs department confirmed Thursday the Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting, which will try once again to resolve the impasse in Zimbabwe’s power-sharing talks, will take place in Pretoria.
SADC has monopolized mediation efforts in Zimbabwe until now, but the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and many observers believe the bloc has discredited itself by pussyfooting around President Robert Mugabe.
Accusing SADC leaders of ignoring rights abuses by Mugabe’s government, Georgette Gagnon, HRW’s Africa director said: ‘It is way past time for the African Union to act to help end their massive suffering.’
The 53-nation AU should ‘insert itself formally into the mediation process and set basic principles, specific human rights benchmarks, and timelines for resolving the crisis.’
Africa’s answer to the European Union should also condemn ongoing abuses by the state, including the arbitrary detention, disappearance and torture of opposition members and activists, and not hesitate to suspend Zimbabwe from its ranks if it failed to halt the practises.
In the absence of a credible government, Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis has plumbed new depths. Over 2,200 people have died of cholera since August and half the population of around 11 million require food aid.
‘The urgent humanitarian needs of Zimbabweans are a direct consequence of Zanu-PF’s abusive rule,’ said Gagnon. DPA