Background Briefing

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International Response

The mass forced evictions were widely condemned by western governments in particular the governments of the United States, United Kingdom and other European Union governments.137 Many African governments including the South African government once again refused to publicly condemn human rights violations in Zimbabwe and chose to remain silent on the issue of the evictions.138 The South African government indicated that it would await a UN report on the crisis before responding. It has yet to respond to the findings of the report. Nonetheless, the South African government has become increasingly concerned with the human rights conditions in Zimbabwe. In his weekly statement on the African National Congress website in August, President Thabo Mbeki in a rare but subtly phrased public reproach of the government of Zimbabwe pointed out that what happens in one country, directly affects other countries within the region.139

The United Kingdom has pledged to provide humanitarian aid towards the crisis. The UK ambassador to the UN also urged other leaders to extend humanitarian assistance.140 On August 10, the US Ambassador to the UN Agencies in Rome, Tony P. Hall visited Zimbabwe to assess the impact of the evictions. Ambassador Hall urged the government of Zimbabwe to remove bureaucratic obstacles preventing NGOs from delivering humanitarian assistance to those in need.141 During his visit, Zimbabwean security forces prevented him from visiting Hopley Farm a camp with up to 2,000 people displaced by the evictions.

There is little consensus on what should be done to engage with the Zimbabwe government on its human rights record at the level of the UN Security Council. Members of the United Nations Security Council remain divided about how the situation in Zimbabwe should be resolved. A number of member states including Russia, China and Tanzania voted against a UN Security Council briefing by Anna Tibaijuka to discuss the report but were outvoted by other governments including the United States and the United Kingdom.142

It is unclear what the UN Security Council will do next. A resolution on Zimbabwe at the UN Security Council is unlikely to take place. China, Russia and other African countries do not believe that Zimbabwe warrants discussions at the Security Council or the UN Human Rights Commission because they claim that it is not a country in conflict and is not a threat to international peace or security.143 The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has accepted an invitation by President Mugabe to visit Zimbabwe and assess the conditions although it is not clear when the visit will take place.144 

Attempts by African governments and the AU to resolve Zimbabwe’s human rights crisis have so far yielded little. The government of Zimbabwe refused to accept the AU appointment of former president Joachim Chissano as an envoy to broker talks between the ruling party and the opposition MDC, claiming that such talks would not be taking place.145 In addition, the commendable effort by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare to appoint a special envoy to investigate the evictions was blocked by the Zimbabwe government, which refused to grant the envoy permission to do so, until he was forced to leave the country on July 7.146 The Zimbabwe government claimed that the African Commission had failed to follow protocol in sending the envoy to investigate the evictions.147 The African Union has yet to respond to the government’s actions. The Southern African Development Community also failed to discuss Zimbabwe at its annual summit on August 17.148  Zimbabwe has not signed on for peer review at the level of the African Union, making it difficult to initiate any discussion on its human rights record.

As this report has documented, the unlawful manner in which the evictions were carried out, necessitates an independent investigation into how the evictions took place. This can only be done through the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to identify who at the highest levels was responsible for planning and executing the evictions.

[137] EU statement: “Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union concerning the recent events in Zimbabwe,” June 7, 2005; BBC news online, “Why Africa wont condemn Zimbabwe blitz,” June 24, 2005.

[138] BBC news online, “Why Africa wont condemn Zimbabwe blitz,” June 24, 2005.

[139] ANC weekly newsletter, “Letter from the President,”

[140] Ibid.

[141] United States Agency for International Development, “Zimbabwe: Complex Emergency Situation Report No.2,” August 16, 2005.

[142] Mail and Guardian Newspaper, “Fur flies in UN briefing on Zimbabwe,” July 28, 2005; BBC News Online, “Zimbabwe report discussed at UN,” July 27, 2005.

[143] Ibid.

[144] Mail and Guardian Online “Kofi Annan to visit Zimbabwe,” July 25, 2005.

[145] VOA news online, “Zimbabwe officials rule out talks with opposition,” August 16, 2005.

[146] African Union news update, June 29, 2005.

[147] See Amnesty International Press release, “Zimbabwe: Government must not be allowed to silence African Union,” July 8, 2005.

[148] Financial Gazette, “SADC reluctant to ruffle Mugabe’s feathers,” August 25, 2005.

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