African leaders 'must intervene in Zimbabwe'

Johannesburg – Human Rights Watch on Thursday called on African leaders to intervene in Zimbabwe's political deadlock, saying Robert Mugabe's government was responsible for the country's humanitarian crisis.\r\n

The international rights body wants the African Union (AU), which meets in Ethiopia next week, to step into regional mediation efforts which it says have failed to solve the political stand-off or act against rights abuses.

"Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party have shown scant regard for the welfare of Zimbabweans," said Georgette Gagnon, the body’s Africa director in a statement marking the release of a new 33-page report on the Zimbabwe crisis.

"It is way past time for the African Union to act to help end their massive suffering," she added.

The next summit of African Union heads of state and government will take place in Addis Ababa on February 1-3, and will follow an emergency summit of southern African leaders in South Africa on Monday.

"The urgent humanitarian needs of Zimbabweans are a direct consequence of Zanu-PF’s abusive rule," said Gagnon.

"The AU can only restore the security and well-being of people in the region by openly acknowledging the scale of the crisis, putting human rights at the top of the agenda, and holding abusers to account."

The new report outlines rights abuses, food shortages, corruption and failing health systems amid a runaway cholera outbreak which by Thursday had claimed more than 2 700 lives.

The nation’s worsening crisis follows the failure of President Mugabe and his rival Morgan Tsvangirai to resolve a dispute over how to share control of powerful ministries under a unity government. – AFP