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Africa must face up to corruption and human rights, says Tutu

nglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu has urged African political leaders to deal with corruption and human rights abuses on the African continent.

"In Africa we have had a succession of corrupt governments," the former head of the Anglican church in South Africa told a 20 February media conference during a meeting of the World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre, Brazil. "We have to be honest and say that has happened, although that corruption has been encouraged by the West."

He added, "We too have a responsibility to say that government exists for the sake of the governed."

In his comments, Tutu also condemned Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, a man whom he said he once admired. "Now he oversees something that is completely unacceptable," he said.

Mugabe has been accused of presiding over massive human rights violations in the southern African country in implementing a land reallocation campaign that has made many Zimbabweans vulnerable to hunger and displaced tens of thousands of people.

"I weep for him and I weep for my sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe," said Tutu. "We who are Africans should be ready to say that a violation of human rights is a violation of human rights."  He added, " Human rights are universal or they are nothing. If it is wrong in Germany it is wrong in Zimbabwe."

Earlier in an address to delegates at the WCC ninth assembly, Tutu praised the world’s largest church grouping for the support it gave to the anti-apartheid struggle not least through its Programme to Combat Racism. Among other things the programme gave humanitarian grants to guerrilla groups fighting minority white rule in southern Africa, such as the Patriotic Front which included Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union.

"We overcame apartheid through the crucial help of the united world church," Tutu said in a speech which received frequent applause and a standing ovation. "You established the Programme to Combat Racism, which, yes, was controversial, but was quite critical in saying our cause was just and noble and that those who as a last resort had opted for the armed struggle were not terrorists but freedom fighters."

Tutu noted, "You must celebrate the success you notched up in defeating apartheid for you were inspired not by a political ideology but by biblical and theological imperatives." But he urged the Geneva-based church grouping to campaign for an end to world poverty.

"We cannot win a so-called war against terror as long as there are conditions of poverty and squalor, ignorance and disease that makes God’s children, members of our family, desperate," he said.

But to tackle poverty and human need, the world’s churches need to come closer together. "We can survive only together. We can be human only together," Tutu said. "A united church is no optional extra. A united church is indispensable for the salvation of God’s world."

(c) Ecumenical News International