Posts Tagged ‘Zimbabwe’

Human rights defenders in Zimbabwe rejoice but realize still long away to go

November 23, 2017

With Mugabe’s departure there is light at the end of the tunnel but there is a lot of cleaning up to do. Two recent opinion pieces make the point:

'Mugabe’s departure offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to make a break from its past,' writes Deprose Muchena (Zinyange Auntony, AFP)
‘Mugabe’s departure offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to make a break from its past,’ (Zinyange Auntony, AFP)

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for Southern Africa, wrote a piece in the Mail & Guardian of 23 November 2017 under title From reconciliation to repression: Mugabe’s painful legacy“.

Muchena traces first Robert Mugabe’s political career that saw early successes ultimately wiped out by a litany of human rights abuses.

Mugabe started well in his early years as leader of Zimbabwe following the transition from British colonial rule. He oversaw heavy investment in Zimbabwe’s social services. Areas including health and education saw dramatic improvements, with the country still enjoying one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. The results of this significant investment in education are there for everyone to see. But Mugabe later undermined his own legacy. During his 37 years in power, he presided over the brutal repression of political opponents, established a culture of impunity for himself and his cronies, and his government implemented a series of policies that have had disastrous consequences for Zimbabweans…Mugabe began his political life fighting against injustice. Imprisoned, and later exiled for his political activities, he was one of more than 900 prisoners of conscience in Zimbabwe adopted by Amnesty International between 1965 and 1979.

After independence political opponents, (repression of Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe Africa People’s Union, military crackdown across Matabeleland and Midlands provinces) ……With nobody held accountable for the killings, a dangerous precedent of impunity was set early on in Mugabe’s reign. It was one he went on to exploit time and again.

Throughout his presidency, general elections were characterised by spikes of serious human rights violations and abuses by state security agents and Zanu-PF activists. Opposition supporters suffered torture, harassment, intimidation and death…A wave of violence unleashed by the army against those suspected of voting for the MDC ensured that Mugabe won by a comfortable margin after the second round of votes was counted.

An increasing reliance on security services to suppress dissenting voices in and outside his party became a hallmark of Mugabe’s rule. Human rights defenders, journalists, those with dissenting views and opposition party activists were locked up on politically motivated charges or under draconian laws. Some were tortured or “disappeared”. Much early progress made on economic, social and cultural rights was wiped out by a series of disastrous government policy decisions. Carried out in 2005, Operation Murambatsvina — a Shona word for “drive out trash” — was one of the most devastating forced evictions in Zimbabwean history…

Although land reform was clearly needed and resulted in some legitimate large-scale redistribution, it was also used as a system of patronage. It rewarded Mugabe’s supporters with land but denied it to those considered supporters of opposition parties. Escaping repression and a shrinking economy, three million Zimbabweans have left the country since 2000…

 

Mugabe’s departure offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to make a break from its past. Zimbabwe’s future lies in renouncing impunity, addressing the human rights violations of the past, ensuring reparations for the victims and respecting the rule of law. The next generation of leaders must commit to upholding the Constitution and live up to Zimbabwe’s international and regional human rights obligations.

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Supporters of Zimbabwe’s former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa await his arrival in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 22, 2017. PHILIMON BULAWAYO/ REUTERS

Mandipa Ndlovu says that “during Mugabe’s reign, over one-third of the population (4-million people) was forced to relocate to abroad to seek better opportunities for them and their families, as well as escape the iron-fisted rule of the former president. The end of an era marked the beginning of a newfound hope that released dormant life in the Zimbabwean community both in the country and around the world.

That long-time Mugabe ally, Emmerson Mnangagwa, will become the new president.. has been welcomed in regards to change for the southern African country, but must be engaged with from a nuanced position regarding the sustainability of human rights and good governance in the country…Zimbabweans are past bitterness and anger, we just want recognition and acknowledgement of past wrongs. This is the only way the country can move forward.

The fact is that Britain’s and the West’s policy was that of turning a blind eye to the black Zimbabwean persecutions of 1980 to 1987 and only reacted with economic sanctions when white-occupied farms were invaded in 2000. Moreover, the legacy of colonialism up until this point had remained one which the Zimbabwean people now realise was exploitative. This, for many Zimbabweans, highlights the interests of which demographic of the Zimbabwean population they seek to strengthen. This lack of historical recognition remains a sticking point to the black population of Zimbabwe, who have both lived through and experienced the effect of economic sanctions placed on the country as a result of Mugabe’s rule. One which needs to be rectified…

It would therefore be a disservice to the future of human rights to disregard the need to address this. Zimbabweans need to have these fears allayed through the initiation of both restorative and distributive justice in order to legitimise real change. In this, however, it is imperative to note that Zimbabweans are past bitterness and anger, we just want recognition and acknowledgement of past wrongs. This is the only way the country can move forward.

.. We have not forgotten people such as Itai Dzamara, whose whereabouts still need to be accounted for. It is not enough to remove the face of fear and violence when the potential for the re-engagement with the system still exists under untainted structures of governance. It is imperative that the narrative of ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ under the new regime does not gloss over the grief of loss (material, physical and in time) as linked to trauma and its subsequent memory..

In the new Zimbabwe, there should not be room to romanticise about the past and its legacies. The culture that tip-toes around the acceptability of violence within the public sphere for the perpetuation of political gain must be thwarted. This can be particularly translated to the politics of grief in reconciling the “violence” narrative…Regardless of what reforms are dormant in Mnangagwa’s hat as he ascends to the presidency, the sentiments of cooperation and the respect of human rights expressed in his press statement on November 21 will go a long way in legitimising bodies. These are the ideals to which the Zimbabwean people must continue to hold him and his administration to account.

For some of my earlier posts on Zimbabwe: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/zimbabwe/

Sources:

https://mg.co.za/article/2017-11-23-from-reconciliation-to-repression-mugabes-painful-legacy

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/mandipha-ndlovu/is-there-a-future-of-sustainable-peace-and-human-rights-for-zimbabwe_a_23286098/

World Health Organization reconsidering Mugabe as “goodwill ambassador”

October 22, 2017

he head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is rethinking his decision to name Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, as a goodwill ambassador.  The move provoked global outrage. WHO member states and activists alike noted that Zimbabwe’s health care system, like many of its public services, has collapsed under Mugabe’s regime. I’m listening. I hear your concerns. Rethinking the approach in light of WHO values. I will issue a statement as soon as possible,” Tedros, a former Ethiopian health minister, tweeted on Saturday night.

The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, came closest when he said he thought Mugabe’s appointment “was a bad April Fool’s joke”. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/23/mugabe-wins-chinese-peace-prize-this-time-for-real/]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was an embarrassment to give the ambassador role to Mr Mugabe, because his “utter mismanagement of the economy has devastated health services”. The main opposition party in Zimbabwe, MDC, described the appointment as “laughable”…“Mugabe trashed our health delivery system. He and his family go outside of the country for treatment in Singapore after he allowed our public hospitals to collapse.”

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) also condemned the decision by the World Health Organization (WHO): “The irony of the World Health Organization’s decision to praise Robert Mugabe is staggering. This a strongman infamous for seeking medical attention for himself abroad. His recent visits to Singapore for medical treatment have cost Zimbabwean taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Mugabe can’t get adequate treatment in his own country because his kleptocratic regime has left Zimbabwe’s hospitals and health industry in a state of ruin,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “Dr. Tedros should nullify Mugabe’s appointment immediately and also issue a strong public condemnation of his repressive rule”.

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/21/un-lambasted-after-naming-mugabe-goodwill-ambassador

HRF condemns World Health Organization for appointing Robert Mugabe as “goodwill ambassador”

Havel Prize for Creative Dissent recognizes Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain, Venezuela and Zimbabwe

May 7, 2017

On 5 May 2017 the Human Rights Foundation in New York announced as the recipients of the 2017 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent the Zimbabwean activist and playwright Silvanos Mudzvova, Venezuelan satirical media project El Chigüire Bipolar, and Bahraini poet and activist Aayat Alqormozi.

the “Goddess of Democracy,” the iconic statue erected by Chinese students during the Tiananmen Square protests of June 1989.

Silvanos Mudzvova is a Zimbabwean actor, playwright, and activist known for challenging the country’s dictator, Robert Mugabe, in daring theatrical productions. Silvanos works with the protest group Tajamuka (“We are rising up”) and serves as the director of Vhitori Entertainment Trust, a theater group created to protest Zimbabwe’s democracy crisis, human rights abuses, and poor governance. Silvanos has directed several controversial performances including “The Final Push,” a political satire; “Missing Diamonds, I Need My Share;” a play on corruption in the diamond industry; and “Protest Revolutionaries,” a play that encourages Zimbabweans to plan their own Arab Spring. Silvanos has been detained and arrested several times. To avoid government persecution, Silvanos now performs what he calls “hit-and-run” performances in public spaces. Silvanos has been awarded an Artist Protection Fund (APF) Fellowship and is currently in-residence for this at The University of Manchester. “Silvanos Mudzvova’s persistence in using art and performance to challenge dictatorship is an inspiration. The persecution of Silvanos illustrates Robert Mugabe’s cruelty, intolerance, and cowardice,” said Havel Prize Committee Chairman Thor Halvorssen.

El Chigüire Bipolar is a Venezuelan satirical media project created in 2008 by Elio Casale, Oswaldo Graziani, and Juan Andrés Ravell. The website, most famous for mocking former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, is often described as a mix of the Onion and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. El Chigüire Bipolar’s popularity in Venezuela grows as the government increases pressure on independent news outlets. “El Chigüire Bipolar is playing an increasingly crucial role in resisting Maduro’s campaign to stifle free speech. Its raw humor and exacting analysis demonstrates the great power that satire has in criticizing authoritarian regimes,” said Havel Prize Committee member Garry Kasparov.

 Aayat Alqormozi is a Bahraini poet who uses her craft to advocate for the equal rights of Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims, and to express her opposition to Bahrain’s monarchy. In 2011, Aayat recited poetry during a protest at Pearl Square as a part of the Bahraini uprising. In response, she was expelled from university and imprisoned for “insulting the King and encouraging hatred of the ruling regime.” Nevertheless, Aayat’s poetry and peaceful defiance have made her a symbol of resistance against the al-Khalifa regime. “Aayat’s methods for peaceful resistance are motivating the next generation of artists and political dissidents in Bahrain. Her commitment to poetry as a vehicle for social and political change is worthy of recognition and encouragement,” said Havel Prize Committee member Amir Ahmad Nasr.

Past laureates include Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot, North Korean democracy activist Park Sang Hak, Saudi women’s rights advocate Manal al-Sharif, and Cuban graffiti artist El Sexto. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/05/05/2014-havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-awarded-to-erdem-gunduz-pussy-riot-and-dhondup-wangchen/]The Havel Prize ceremony will be broadcast live at oslofreedomforum.com beginning at10:00 a.m. Central European Time on Wednesday, May 24. The event will take place at the Oslo Nye Theater. Contact: Prachi Vidwans, (212) 246-8486, prachi@hrf.org.

Source: Havel Prize for Creative Dissent Recognizes Efforts in Bahrain, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe | Human Rights Foundation Home Page

International Women’s Day 2017: honoring, defending and watching women human rights defenders

March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day focuses on many different aspects of the struggle for the human rights of women. I have selected three special actions this year:

(1) a short piece honoring woman who are land rights defenders;

(2) a digital protection tool for women human rights defenders (Cyberwomen);

(3) a documentary film on how rape was made into a international war crime.

[Of course this blog has had many earlier posts on women human rights defenders: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/ ] Read the rest of this entry »

Lifetime Achievements in Human Rights: 4 Human Rights Defenders

February 24, 2017

Anna Neistat, Senior Director of Research at Amnesty International, writes in the Huffington Post of 23 February 2017 about 4 Human Rights Defenders who deserve a “Lifetime Achievements” Oscar. Since it’s awards season, Amnesty International is paying tribute to four human rights heroes whose dramatic stories could – and should – be made into movies:

Itai Peace Dzamara

It’s been almost two years since Zimbabwean journalist and activist Itai Peace Dzamarawas dragged from a barbers’ chair by five armed men while he was getting a haircut.  Dzamara, the leader of a pro-democracy movement called “Occupy Africa Unity Square”, had long been considered an enemy of the state by the Zimbabwean government. Just two days before his abduction he had delivered a speech at an opposition rally in Harare, calling for mass action against the deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe. If this were a movie, justice would have been done long ago. Dzamara would have been returned to his wife and children, and the men who abducted him held accountable. But this isn’t Hollywood. This is Zimbabwe, where basic rights and freedoms have been trampled on throughout the long years of Robert Mugabe’s reign. As Itai Peace Dzamara and his family know, anyone who dares to speak out is a target for intimidation, harassment and arrest, and there’s no happy ending in sight. Despite a court ruling ordering state security agents to investigate Dzamara’s disappearance, there were gaps in the investigation and his whereabouts remains a mystery. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/05/itai-dzamaras-disappearance-worrying-for-all-human-rights-defenders-in-zimbabwe/]

Berta Cáceres 

GOLDMAN ENVIRONMENTAL FOUNDATION
 

Like the audience of a horror movie, the people around Berta could see that terrible danger was coming her way – but they were powerless to stop it. Honduras has the highest number of killings per capita of environmental and land activists in the world. The vast majority of these killings go unsolved and unpunished. One story that really stands out in this deadly context is that of Berta Cáceres. Berta was the leader and co-founder of an organisation that was campaigning against the construction of a hydroelectric project on the ancestral lands of indigenous communities in Honduras.  In the early hours of 2 March 2016, she was murdered in her own home. Berta knew that she was putting her life in danger, but she was willing to take the risk to stand up for indigenous communities.  Like the audience of a horror movie, the people around Berta could see that terrible danger was coming her way – but they were powerless to stop it. Despite the stark warning that her death served, environmental activists in Honduras say that stopping their work is not an option – no-one else will defend their communities and rights. They continue Berta’s work every day, reminding us that we should never take freedom for granted. It is essential that Berta’s assassination is solved, to show that there is a price to pay for attacking and killing environmental activists. Berta’s story ended in tragedy, but we will not stop fighting until we are sure that other activists will not meet the same fate. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/07/exceptional-response-from-ngo-world-on-killing-of-berta-caceres/]

Sirikan Charoensiri

Sirikan Charoensiri, also known as “June”, is a young lawyer who has bravely stood up for human rights during a dark period of military rule in Thailand. In June 2015, she was on hand at a peaceful protest by pro-democracy student activists in Bangkok to monitor the situation and provide legal representation, if necessary.  She now finds herself facing sedition charges and a potential trial in a military court alongside her clients. She also faces charges in two additional cases relating to her defence of the student activists and could be imprisoned for up to 15 years. As the Thai authorities have escalated their crackdown in the name of security, people who stand up for human rights in the country are increasingly falling foul of a government intent on silencing dissent. As June herself put it: “There is now an environment where risk is visible and imminent.” [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/international-day-of-women-human-rights-defenders-agents-of-change-under-pressure/]

Narges Mohammadi

Narges is a prisoner of conscience who should be lauded, not locked up, for her human rights work. In Iran, human rights defenders and other peaceful critics are subject to relentless harassment. Over the past year, those jailed after shockingly unfair trials before Revolutionary Courts including lawyers, bloggers, students, women’s rights activists, filmmakers and even musicians.  Human rights defender Narges Mohammadi knows better than most how vengeful the Iranian authorities can be towards anyone who dissents. She is currently serving a total of 22 years in prison for speaking out against issues such as Iran’s prolific use of the death penalty and acid attacks on women. What makes her situation even worse is that she is critically ill and cannot receive proper medical care in prison. Just as cruelly, the authorities have at times denied her access to her young children, who had to leave Iran to live with their father in France after she was jailed. Narges is a prisoner of conscience who should be lauded, not locked up, for her human rights work. We will continue to fight until she is free.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/12/retaliation-against-iranian-human-rights-defender-for-meeting-with-ashton/]

Itai, Berta, Sirikan and Narges are just a handful of the outstanding human rights defenders around the world who deserve recognition, but have instead been silenced by forces of cruelty, injustice and repression.

Source: Lifetime Achievements: Paying Tribute to 4 Human Rights Heroes | The Huffington Post

Line-up of speakers for Oslo Freedom Forum 22-24 May 2017 – Zimbabwean speaker detained

February 2, 2017

Oslo Freedom Forum

The New York based Human Rights Foundation has announced the initial speaker lineup for its 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF), taking place 22-24 May 2017 in Oslo. It includes quite a few well-known human rights defenders [the names are linked to short CVs]: Read the rest of this entry »

Sampling International Human Rights Day 2016: be a human rights defender. .

December 9, 2016

International Human Rights Day commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organisations to observe 10 December as Human Rights Day. The theme this year is: Stand up for someone’s rights today, in other words: be a human rights defender. .

There is a lot going on during this period, so I just give a small sample (10!) from different parts of the world: Read the rest of this entry »

The magical number 92 in Zimbabwe!

February 25, 2016

Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe turned 92 this month. Public Domain photo by the U.S. Air Force.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. Public domain photo by the U.S. Air Force.

Two recent items on Zimbabwe showed an interesting link with the number 92 – coincidence?:

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, nicknamed ‘Uncle Bob’, turned 92 on 21 February 2016.

Human rights defenders have been arrested while doing their work and in 92% of the cases the arrests were unjustified and victims acquitted. We have 224 cases of human rights defenders including lawyers, members of civic society organisations, journalists and student activists arrested and charged,” said Dzimbabwe Chimbga of  Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) appearing before the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Human Rights on 26 February.

Amnesty International’s and Human Rights Watch’s annual reports of 2015 contain enough information to make the 92% a good estimate

For earlier posts on Zimbabwe see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/zimbabwe/

Sources

https://globalvoices.org/2016/02/23/worlds-oldest-president-zimbabwes-robert-mugabe-turns-92/

‘Increasing cases of human rights violations worrisome’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe

Selection of what happened at the local level on Human Rights Day 2015

December 13, 2015

International human rights day is an occasion for a multitude of local activities, some denouncing violations others quietly remembering, some (trying to) march in the streets, others issuing statements. This anthology of 10 such events is far from complete but gives an idea of the variety, from human rights defenders speaking out to governmental institutions ‘celebrating’ …. Read the rest of this entry »

Follow up on the Human Rights Defenders Resolution in the UN

December 5, 2015

Last week I wrote about how the UN Resolution on HRDs did in the 3rd Committee of the UN General Assembly [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/26/unfortunately-the-un-voted-on-the-resolution-on-human-rights-defenders/] and how South Africa has turned around [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/south-africa-does-about-turn-on-un-resolution-on-human-rights-defenders/]. The date of the vote in the Plenary is not yet confirmed but is likely to be 18 or 21 December. The voting record is available: http://www.un.org/en/ga/third/70/docs/voting_sheets/L.46.Rev.1.pdf

Fourteen States voted no on the resolution (China, Russia, Syria, Burundi, Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, North Korea, South Africa, Iran, Pakistan, and Sudan). In some of these countries civil society has expressed disappointment. e.g.

In Pakistan the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in a statement issued on Tuesday, said: “At the same time, HRCP must express alarm and great disappointment that Pakistan chose to be one of the 14 nations that voted against the resolution.“ “While regretting Pakistan’s decision to oppose the resolution, the civil society is entitled to ask what rights defenders have done to deserve this step-motherly treatment. It is unfortunate that the government wishes to see civil society as an adversary. The civil society cannot, and must not, surrender its role as a watchdog for people’s rights because that constitutes an entitlement, by virtue of citizens’ social contract with the state, and not as a concession” “The HRCP also stresses people’s right to know through an explanation in parliament the reason why the government chose to deny the need for protection for HRDs, who include, besides human rights groups, journalists, lawyers, political and social activists.Read the rest of this entry »