Sunday, July 17, 2005

We are a tiny bit angwy.


I frequently quote the Hansblix character in Team America, who threatens to send a letter saying the UN is "wery wery angwy".

Well, these Church groups can't even be wery angwy...

HAMISH ROBERTSON: For our final story, we go to Africa, where church leaders say they'll publicise the plight of Zimbabweans made homeless by the slum clearance campaign.

The idea is to embarrass President Robert Mugabe into stopping the demolitions, and even to force the international community to step in.
They also want to shame Africa's politicians into taking action.

Yup...your letter will make them Soooo ashamed that they will repent...not.

Zimbabwe is fast becoming a public relations nightmare for African leaders, as well as for aid groups who're trying to get the "Make Poverty History" campaign – overshadowed by the London bombings – back on track with promises of good governance.

Zimbabwe is also in danger of becoming a new 'killing field" of people in rural areas...

Here's our Africa Correspondent Zoe Daniel.

ZOE DANIEL: When members of a South African multi-faith church delegation arrived back from Zimbabwe last week their shock was evident and their intentions were clear – to stop the crackdown.

Council of Churches President Russel Botman.

RUSSEL BOTMAN: Its objective is to stop the operation and to express solidarity with the victims, and to help bring an end to the ongoing suffering of the people.

There's an old saying, padre: You can't eat good intentions...

ZOE DANIEL: The Council of Churches plans to immediately send a second delegation into Zimbabwe to tell the world what's happening inside the country, and to try to embarrass the Government into stopping its campaign.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have been made homeless by Operation Murambatsvina or Drive out Rubbish. But despite that, African governments remain silent, refusing to criticise the Zimbabwean administration.

Church leaders like Father Matthew Esau say representations will be made to the African Union to get some action.

MATTHEW ESAU: I'm hoping that we would address the AU, that we would add to the United Nations report, that this body would ask or mandate a group to speak to our President.

ZOE DANIEL: The conventional wisdom is that African leaders are reluctant to criticise President Robert Mugabe because of an informal brotherhood between governments whose countries have shaken off colonial rule.

The African Union also argues that there is too much focus on Zimbabwe, when human rights abuses on a worse scale are happening elsewhere in Africa.

So why don't you do both? Just because the UN refused to stop the massacres in Dafur (China needs their oil and would veto intervention) does that mean that you can't stop the projected famine deaths in Zimbabwe's rural areas in the near future?

Caroline Sande from ActionAid.

CAROLINE SANDE: They argue that there are worse things happening in other parts of the continent – ‘Why do we keep focusing on Zimbabwe?’ – and again from a scale perspective, human rights violations anywhere, whatever the numbers of people involved, should be condemned.

Yup...send a letter. Don't stop them: That would take force, and we're limp wristed pacifists who would never resort to anything so vulgar. (with apologies to my gay friends in the US Marines for using the phrase limp wrist).

So I think we are always going to be struggling with this, a preoccupation or a perceived preoccupation from the part of the international community on Zimbabwe, yet there are other crises happening elsewhere in Africa.

ZOE DANIEL: Aid groups are currently trying to restart the “Make Poverty History” campaign that was stymied by the London bombings just as Africa looked like getting some serious attention from the G8.

Governance in Africa has already vastly improved, and Sue Mbaya from the Southern African Regional Network says Zimbabwe shouldn't be used as an example by Westerners considering whether aid to Africa is a worthwhile investment.

No, we could use Nigeria or Ghana or Congo or Sierra Leone or Liberia or Sudan as examples instead...

SUE MBAYA: We must be careful not to make the issue around governance sort of like more of the same and the new frontier as far as conditionalities are concerned. And so I would like to think that the people you refer to – the grassroots – who we're calling to support, would be more analytical and probably more mature in their assessment.

Translation, please? This doesn't make sense...

ZOE DANIEL: But the failure of African leaders to condemn the so-called "Clean Up" campaign is creating serious credibility issues as Africa seeks two permanent seats on the UN Security Council. And while church leaders are now trying to embarrass the Zimbabwean Government, they're also trying to shame other African governments into action.

In Johannesburg, this is Zoe Daniel for Correspondents Report.

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