THE African Union summit in Ethiopia at the weekend should suspend Zimbabwe from the organisation to press President Robert Mugabe to end the countryâ€™s long-standing political crisis that has led to a deepening humanitarian emergency, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said this week.
HRW said this in a report released after Mondayâ€™s Sadc extraordinary summit in South Africa resolved that Mugabe and the leaders of the two formations of the MDC â€” Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara â€” should form a government of national unity by mid-February.
However, the MDC-T said the resolution of Sadc was â€œfar short of our expectationsâ€ and the partyâ€™s national council would meet today to decide whether or not to be part of the government as directed by the regional bloc.
The HRW said the AU â€” which would hold a three-day summit of heads of state and government in Addis Ababa starting on Sunday â€” should tell Mugabe to cede more power to Tsvangirai for the consummation of the power-sharing deal the parties signed on September 15 last year. Â
HRW called on the AU to insert itself formally into the mediation process and set basic principles, specific human rights benchmarks, and timelines for resolving the crisis. â€œAmong the steps it (AU) should take are to condemn and call for an end to ongoing abuses by the Zanu PF authorities, including an end to politically-motivated violence, enforced disappearances, torture, and the release of MDC members and human rights activists who are being arbitrarily detained,â€ read the report.
â€œHuman Rights Watch urged the AU to suspend Zimbabwe from the organisation if â€” within a specific time frame â€” it does not meet specific human rights and good governance benchmarks.â€
The 33-page report from HRW titled â€œCrisis without Limits: Human Rights and Humanitarian Consequences of Political Repression in Zimbabweâ€, details the Zimbabwean governmentâ€™s responsibility for the countryâ€™s humanitarian crisis.
A cholera epidemic has left over 2 700 Zimbabweans dead and another 55 000 ill.
Over five million Zimbabweans face severe food shortages and are dependent on international aid.
Repeated political interference by Zanu PF in the work of humanitarian agencies has severely hampered international efforts to tackle the countryâ€™s multiple crises.
â€œRobert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have shown scant regard for the welfare of Zimbabweans,â€ said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director for HRW. â€œIt is way past time for the African Union to act to help end their massive suffering.â€
The HRW said the global political agreement signed by Zanu PF and the two MDC formations had all but collapsed and has not led to a credible government of national unity or ended Mugabeâ€™s repression.
Zanu PF, the human rights watchdog said, had repeatedly breached the terms of the agreement that committed the two parties to demonstrate respect for democratic values and human rights.
It said Zanu PFâ€™s violations of basic human rights and various governmental policies have worsened the countryâ€™s humanitarian crisis.
â€œCrisis without Limitsâ€ is based on research conducted by HRW in six of Zimbabweâ€™s 10 provinces from November 16 to 30 2008.
Interviews were conducted with victims of human rights violations as well as representatives of local and international non-governmental organisations and humanitarian agencies, United Nations officials, MDC members, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Grain Marketing Board, lawyers, health experts, economists, and diplomats.
HRW research identifies the causes of the food shortage, the cholera outbreak, and the collapse in Zimbabweâ€™s health system.
It said repressive government and extensive corruption have led directly to an interlinked economic collapse, humanitarian crisis, and growing public desperation.
The report also documents how Zanu PF continued to use state institutions such as the police and the justice system to violate the civil and political rights of MDC members and supporters, civil society activists, and human rights defenders.
The police, HRW alleged, continued to use violence to break up peaceful protests, and routinely persecute MDC activists.
Acting information minister Paul Mangwana refused to comment on the report saying he was yet to see it. â€” Staff Writer.