Friday, September 19, 2008

Discord over rights abuses

HARARE - Zimbabwe's political leaders appeared to speak with discordant voices on Wednesday on the sensitive subject of how to achieve national healing while ensuring those who violated human rights are brought to justice following a unity accord signed earlier this week.

Morgan Tsvangirai - Prime Minister-designate in a new government of national unity with President Robert Mugabe and another opposition leader Arthur Mutambara - told a British newspaper that some senior members of Mugabe's government could face trial over political violence. Mugabe himself will not be tried, according to Tsvangirai.

But, in a quick reminder of how fragile the unity agreement between the three political rivals is, a senior official of Mugabe's ZANU PF party and Mutambara's faction said the parties had not agreed what to do with perpetrators of human rights abuses.

They said whatever course of action the three parties may eventually decide to take, it should be aimed at "achieving national healing rather than punishment and retribution" - clearly insinuating Tsvangirai may have jumped the gun when he spoke of bringing Mugabe's lieutenants to

ZANU PF deputy spokesman Ephraim Masawi described Tsvangirai's remarks as "unfortunate" and charged that the incoming prime minister loved to point fingers at others while his own MDC party was also guilty of committing political violence.

"The agreement is clear that we must have national healing, but how to achieve that is yet to be fashioned," Masawi told ZimOnline. "It is unfortunate that Tsvangirai speaks of ZANU PF members facing trial, ignoring that his party was also responsible for political violence in the countdown
to the June 27 presidential election run-off."

The ZANU PF official claimed that all of Zimbabwe's three main political parties were guilty of committing political violence, citing a statement issued by the parties last month in which they not only condemned past political violence but also accepted responsibility.

"Every party admitted committing violence and we wonder why Tsvangirai only mentions ZANU PF members. The issue of whether perpetrators will face trial or not rests with the parties when they deal with how to heal the nation as prescribed in the deal they signed on Monday," said

Mutambara would not comment directly on Tsvangirai's calls for ZANU PF officials to be brought to trial but said whatever action the three parties decide to take should aim to heal the nation and not to achieve retribution.

He said: "We must have restorative justice that seeks to incorporate the views of the victims, to rehabilitate individuals and communities that were brutalised through the abuse of human rights and crimes against humanity."

In an interview with The Times newspaper, Tsvangirai said while Mugabe could let off the hook, those in his inner circle should stand trial for political violence and other crimes.

"I don't think Mugabe himself as a person can be held accountable. But there are various levels of institutional violence that has taken place and I'm sure we'll be able to look at that," Tsvangirai
reportedly said. "Let the rule of law apply . . . We all cry for the rule of law, and if somebody's committed an offence he should be prosecuted."

The MDC leader, who was himself brutally assaulted and injured by police last year, said the new government was committed to ensuring there would be no repeat of the violence, which he described as "the darkest period in our history".

Political violence and human rights abuses have accompanied Zimbabwe's elections since the 1999 emergency of Tsvangirai and his MDC party as the first potent threat to Mugabe and ZANU PF's grip on power.

For example, Tsvangirai says that more than 100 members of his MDC party were killed and more than 10 000 others displaced in political violence in the run-up to the June presidential run-off election

Tsvangirai, who pulled out of the run-off to protest the violence and despite having led Mugabe in the first round of voting in March, blamed the violence on ZANU PF militia and state security forces.

Zimbabwe's power-sharing deal is the first real opportunity in nearly 10 years for the crisis-sapped southern African nation to begin a chapter of national healing and recovery.

However, many in and outside Zimbabwe remain immensely skeptical that the deal clinched after seven weeks of tortuous negotiations could stand the strain given the deep personal animosity and mistrust among the political leaders.

Source: ZimOnline

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