Zimbabwe: UN envoy says freedom of movement is fundamental right

Harare, 8 July 2005 -- The United Nations Special Envoy assessing the evictions of thousands of poor people from housing and businesses in Zimbabwe was scheduled to visit the Victoria Falls district and return to Harare for a final round of talks before winding up her two-week mission at the weekend.

Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, the Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT, who visited by road the southern city of Bulawayo and other towns where people were evicted, said: "In a democracy people cannot be forced to stay away from a city, nor can they be forced out of a city. The freedom of movement is a fundamental right. People come to the cities for economic opportunity. If you try to ship them away it doesn't work. They will come back, anyway."

Ms. Tibaijuka will report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on her assessment of the Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order) eviction campaign. The evictions began a month ago in what the Government called an effort to clean up cities and tackle the black market across Zimbabwe. As a result, tens of thousands of homes and market stalls have been destroyed.

Ten United Nations special rapporteurs on human freedoms and rights issued a statement late last month expressing concern about the "recent mass forced evictions in Zimbabwe and related human rights violations" and raising questions about the negative effects on supplies of water and food, education and health care, including HIV/AIDS treatment.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said it has been working with Government ministries and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to distribute drinking water, sanitation equipment, health care supplies, blankets and plastic sheeting to affected children and women.