Zimbabwe: Bishops fear genocide

CAFOD calls for peace with an end to all violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe and demands urgent action from the UN as bishops spoke of their fear of genocide

A joint statement from Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical Bishops appeals to the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the UN to work towards arresting the deteriorating political and security situation in Zimbabwe.

"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, Burundi and other hot spots in Africa and elsewhere."

End intimidation

The statement goes on to call for the immediate end to political intimidation and retribution; for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release immediately the results of the presidential poll and for the people of Zimbabwe to retain their dignity and their vote.

It says: "And finally to the people of Zimbabwe themselves. You played your part when you turned out to vote on 29 March 2008. We, again, commend you for exercising your democratic right peacefully.

"At this difficult time in our nation, we urge you to maintain and protect your dignity and your vote.

"We urge you to refuse to be used for a political party or other people's selfish end especially when it concerns violence against other people, including those who hold different views from your own."

CAFOD has worked in Zimbabwe for three decades and is currently running an emergency food programme targeting more than 100,000 people.

It has received reports of entire communities forced from their homes and asking the Church for shelter and assistance.

CAFOD director Chris Bain says: "This warning from the Bishops must spur the UN into taking immediate action. It can no longer stand to one side awaiting the recounting of the ballot boxes.

"The African Union, especially South Africa, can no longer stay silent, it must condemn the violence and intimidation, and no African country should cooperate in the shipping of arms to the country.

"We also call upon the UN to immediately send in international monitors to report on exactly what is happening and demand immediate access for the media. "

Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic network of which CAFOD is a member, has called for the UN Security Council to impose an immediate arms embargo on Zimbabwe.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Caritas President, says: "No more arms must reach Zimbabwe unless there is a guarantee that they will not be used against the people.

"Church workers are reporting an upsurge in violence that is deeply troubling."