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Rights Group Criticizes Zimbabwe

A United Nations report on the demolition of low-income housing and informal markets in Zimbabwe concluded that up to seven-hundred-thousand Zimbabweans had lost their homes, incomes, or both as a result of the campaign. U-N Special Envoy Anna Tibaijuka found that the demolitions had made Zimbabwe’s economic and humanitarian crisis worse. She recommended that the architects of the campaign be held accountable for their actions.

The Zimbabwean government has so far refused to admit wrongdoing. And there is evidence that some internally displaced Zimbabweans are once more being forcibly relocated. Amnesty International, an independent human rights group, says that thousands of Zimbabweans who lost their homes have been moved from temporary camps to more remote locations.

Amnesty International released footage taken in August at Hopley Farm, an informal camp set up after the government closed a larger, better equipped facility. The Amnesty International tape shows Zimbabweans living in tents made from plastic sheets and complaining of a lack of adequate food and water.

Bishop Ivan Abrahams is a member of the South African Council of Churches. He says that what is taking place in Zimbabwe today is similar to what occurred in South Africa until the end of apartheid in the early 1990s:

"There has been a kind of parallel with what we have seen happening in South Africa with forced removals, the apartheid forced removals that we have seen where people are left destitute, without shelter, and livelihoods."

It would be in the best interests of the Zimbabwean people for the government to accept the U-N report, admit its mistakes, and work with U-N agencies and humanitarian donors to deal with and mitigate the massive humanitarian crisis created by the housing demolitions. Efforts to relocate internally displaced Zimbabweans should be voluntary, coordinated with relief agencies, and carried out solely to improve the well-being of the displaced. Any other approach will only compound their suffering.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "Zimbabwe's leaders have a responsibility to address the political and economic problems that have wrecked what only a few years ago was one of Africa's success stories."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.