Amnesty International Boss in key Zimbabwe visit

HARARE – The Secretary general of Amnesty International, Irene Khan, will head a high level mission to Zimbabwe next weekend and possibly hold discussions with President Robert Mugabe.

Eliane Drakopoulous, the African press officer for Amnesty International, said on Friday that apart from meeting President Mugabe, Khan planned to meet human rights activists, victims of human rights violations and other senior government officials. Khan arrives in Harare on 13 June and leaves on 18 June, 2009.

“The mission will conclude with a press conference in Harare,” said Drakopoulous. The visit by the Amnesty International secretary general comes at a time the inclusive government has started the process of national healing following last year’s violent presidential and general elections.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which was forced to enter into a coalition government with President Mugabe in February this year, claims that more than 500 of its supporters were killed by state security agents and ZANU PF militia in the run-up to the polls.

The national healing process, however, has been stalled due to sharp differences among officials amid revelations that army generals and other known state security agents are clamouring for a blanket amnesty on crimes committed during the infamous Gukurahundi period and the Marc/June 2008 presidential elections.

Human rights organisations in Zimbabwe have prepared dossiers chronicling the crimes committed by ZANU PF militia and the military against MDC officials and supporters. In the run-up to the June one-man presidential run-off, former ZANU PF strongholds won by the MDC in the parliamentary and local government elections were rendered no-go areas for the opposition.

A crack state-sponsored hit squad wiped out Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s reconnaissance team, prominent among them Tonderai Ndira. At the MDC’s 9th anniversary held in Harare on Saturday last week, the party paid homage to Ndira and scores of other slain MDC officials and activists.