Friday, July 4, 2008

Doctors put the bones back together

HARARE-- The doctor points impassively to two X-rays on a screen. One is of a foot fractured in four places, the breaks more severe than if the victim had been run over by a car, the doctor says.

The second is of a leg fractured at the thickest part of the tibia, just beneath the knee. The fibula, a smaller leg bone, is smashed to pieces, says the doctor, who despite eight years' experience with cases of trauma and beatings has never seen an injury like the tibia fracture.

The leg and foot injuries were not the only ones suffered by the two victims, a 41-year-old polling agent for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party beaten on the soles of his feet and a 46-year-old MDC provincial secretary struck with a metal bar. Both had two broken arms
and one had broken ribs.

The pair are among the thousands of Zimbabwean activists who were injured in the run-up to Friday's presidential runoff, overwhelmingly opposition party supporters attacked by ZANU-PF ruling party militias and operatives, according to Human Rights Watch.

At least 85 opposition activists were killed before the runoff, which concluded with longtime incumbent Robert Mugabe being the sole candidate. An additional 200 are missing and presumed dead. And roughly 200,000 people were displaced from their homes in the violence, the opposition says.

In some areas, the opposition could not field a single polling agent to monitor the election because of safety concerns.

MDC presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, who described the election campaign as being like a war, pulled out of the vote because of the severe violence against MDC activists. Mugabe, 84, who had finished second to Tsvangirai in the initial presidential vote in March, was inaugurated for a new five-year term.

The X-rays convey only the bald medical facts of what happened to two of the many victims, but to a doctor, the pictures speak as eloquently as courtroom testimony.

The doctor, whose name has been withheld because of safety concerns and possible repercussions, describes himself as a man interested in facts, not emotions. He does focus on the biographical details of the men involved, who they were and what were their thoughts and feelings.

"I just write the medical reports," he says. "I try to keep it as objective as possible."

What staggers him is the level of suffering, and the length of time that the victims will continue to feel the pain. "Every time that person puts his foot down for the next five years, it will
hurt," he says.

"You have four metatarsal fractures," the doctor continues, gesturing at the bones in the central part of the foot in the first X-ray. "You just don't get full metatarsal fractures at the same time. It's very unusual. It requires a huge amount of force.

"You could drive a car over someone's foot and if you broke two of them it would be a lot," he says.

He jabs a finger at the X-ray of the tibia injury. "Will you look at that bone? The massive strong part of the tibia has been separated. You just don't get complete severing of the tibia from the knee like that. I could not hit someone hard enough to do this.

"It's an illustration of unbelievable, intentional brutality," he says. This is not over when the election is over." The areas hardest hit by the violence were traditional ZANU-PF strongholds
that had swung strongly to the MDC in the March vote.

Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights, a group of independent doctors, reports that 2,000 people were treated for injuries suffered in political violence in June and more than 5,000 since February. The doctor is a member of the organization.

"One of the most disturbing things is that there is nowhere that people can turn to. You have got no refuge, no ombudsman, no policeman," the doctor says. He switches off the lighted screen behind the X-rays, takes them down and slides them into two brown envelopes. There are many others like them, he says.

Moroka Media

Mugabe urged to dialogue with opposition

HARARE (AFP) - President Robert Mugabe returns to Zimbabwe on Wednesday under pressure from fellow African leaders to form a national unity government in the wake of his re-election in a violent poll ruled unfair by monitors.

An African Union summit in Egypt, attended by Mugabe, approved a resolution calling for him to negotiate with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who withdrew from the run-off election because of violence against his supporters.

The resolution fell short of the tougher statement wanted by some African countries, but it was an unprecedented rebuff to Mugabe, previously feted as a liberation hero.

In the strongest public statement from one of Zimbabwe's neighbours since he was sworn in on Sunday, Botswana called for Mugabe to be barred from the AU and the southern African regional body SADC.

Last Friday's second-round election, in which he was the only candidate, was condemned by monitors and much of world opinion as violent and unfair.

"In our considered view . the representatives of the current government in Zimbabwe should be excluded from attending SADC (Southern African Development Community) and African Union meetings," Botswana Vice-President Mompati Merafhe said, according to a text of his remarks.

Botswana said Mugabe's participation in African meetings "would give unqualified legitimacy to a process which cannot be considered legitimate".Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for Mugabe, 84, to be suspended from the AU after the election.

European Union president France said the EU would only accept a Zimbabwean government led by Tsvangirai, echoing a Western position that Mugabe was an illegitimate leader.

Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in the first round of the election on March 29 but withdrew from the run-off after he said pro-government militias killed 86 of his supporters. Botswana's statement underlined deep rifts in Africa and among Zimbabwe's neighbours over how tough to be with Mugabe.

South Africa, the designated mediator in Zimbabwe, has resisted open condemnation. The AU summit, in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, called for SADC mediation, led by South African President Thabo Mbeki, to continue.

Mbeki has been criticised in the region and at home for what is seen as ineffective mediation that favours Mugabe. At the summit, Mugabe attacked his critics in Africa and outside but did not
object to the resolution, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told reporters.

"There was a lengthy debate, many views were put forward including very critical views of the Zimbabwean ruling party and the president," Zaki said.

Mugabe spokesman George Charamba earlier rejected ideas being discussed for a power sharing deal and MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti said there was nochance of negotiations.

Biti said Mugabe's decision to go ahead with the June 27 election "totally and completely exterminated any prospects of a negotiated settlement". MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the party would respond to the AU resolution on Wednesday.

The summit did not back a U.S. push for U.N. sanctions against Mugabe, including an arms embargo.

Source: AFP