Protect the people of Zimbabwe

Brussels, 30 June 2005: The international community must take bold new action to address the worsening crisis in Zimbabwe.
The government's blitz campaign to evict people from their homes or markets -- called Operation Murambatsvina, or "Drive Out Rubbish" -- has left over 300,000 persons homeless and has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation.

"This campaign flies in the face of the government's obligations to protect its citizens", says Crisis Group President Gareth Evans. "It provides the gravest proof yet that the situation in Zimbabwe requires more effective international engagement".

In letters to African and international leaders (full text below), Evans describes the steps the international community must now take.

Leaders must strongly condemn and demand an immediate end to the mass forced evictions; demand unrestricted access for humanitarian aid; harmonize, strengthen, and enforce targeted sanctions; create a joint task force to examine the flow of assets associated with senior ruling ZANU-PF party figures; support the new UN Envoy, Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka; support an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate the use of food and shelter as political weapons; and insist on respect for the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons.

The international community should press the government and ZANU-PF to initiate discussions about a credible transition process leading to democratic reform, restoration of the rule of law and economic recovery. They should also expand and improve assistance to the truly democratic forces in the country.

The U.S. and UK should take the additional step of appointing a Special Envoy for Zimbabwe to tour African capitals and promote a united U.S./UK/African policy response to the situation in Zimbabwe.

"With unemployment already around 70 per cent and food shortages affecting half the population, Zimbabwe is a ticking time bomb", says Evans. "It is time for the international community to step in and protect the people of Zimbabwe".