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Zimbabwean churches warn country faces ‘genocide’


Church leaders in Zimbabwe have called on the United Nations and African regional groupings to step in to stem the violence that has been reported following disputed elections, and have warned that without intervention the country will witness genocide.

"As the shepherds of the people, we … express our deep concern over the deteriorating political, security, economic and human rights situation in Zimbabwe following the March 29 elections," the church heads, drawn from the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, said in a joint statement.

"People are being abducted, tortured and humiliated by being asked to repeat slogans of political parties they are alleged not to support," they said. "We appeal to the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the United Nations to work towards arresting the deteriorating political and security situation in Zimbabwe," the religious leaders urged in their 22 April statement.

"We warn the world that if nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi, and other hot spots in Africa and elsewhere," the church leaders stated.

Separately, the worldwide Anglican Communion News Service has published an appeal for a World Day of Prayer for Zimbabwe on 27 April. The appeal, signed by Bob Stumbles, chancellor of the Anglican diocese of Harare, the country’s capital, urged prayer "to rescue Zimbabwe from violence, the concealing and juggling of election results, deceit, oppression and corruption".

Zimbabweans voted on 29 March in presidential, parliamentary and local elections. Zimbabwe’s electoral commission has announced parliamentary results that show President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party won fewer seats than the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party.

Nearly a month after the elections, however, the electoral commission has still to announce the presidential results. The MDC has published its own results from figures collected at polling stations, and declared its leader Morgan Tsvangirai to be the winner.

Zanu-PF party militants are reported to be attacking suspected opposition supporters, with scores of people now living in the open air after their homes were torched.

In the capital’s suburbs, soldiers are said to be patrolling the streets at night and beating up residents they accuse of voting for the "wrong" candidate after the opposition won a majority in parliament.

On 23 April, Zimbabwe’s government-owned Herald newspaper published an opinion piece that urged the setting up of a transitional government under Mugabe to organize new elections, though a government official was reported to have distanced himself from the article.

In Nairobi on the same day, the All Africa Conference of Churches said it had received reports that post-election violence in Zimbabwe had displaced 3000 people, injured 500 and left 10 dead, though Zimbabwean authorities say only one death has been reported and is still under investigation.

The Nairobi-based AACC grouping also commended southern African countries that have refused to allow a ship from China that was carrying weapons for Zimbabwe, to dock in their territories "because," the church grouping said, "of concerns that the Zimbabwean government may use the weapons to clamp down on the opposition". 

(c) Ecumenical News International