Rights group urges tougher line on Zimbabwe

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Southern African leaders must pressure Zimbabwe’s unity government to make greater political reforms to prevent the country from sliding back into turmoil, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.

Leaders from the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) meet next week in Kinshasa, where they are set to discuss progress made by the unity government formed in February.

“The region’s leaders need to press Zimbabwe openly and publicly for human rights reforms to prevent the country from backsliding into state-sponsored violence and chaos,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at the United States-based group.

“Southern African leaders should stop looking at Zimbabwe through rose-coloured glasses,” she said in a statement.

The unity government was formed by long-ruling President Robert Mugabe and his erstwhile rival Morgan Tsvangirai in February to curb electoral violence and to rebuild the economy from collapse.

In a 20-page report, HRW accused Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party of refusing to reform and of seizing more power than Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

“Police, state prosecutors, and court officials aligned to Zanu-PF conduct politically motivated prosecutions of MDC legislators and activists, and fail to ensure justice for victims of abuses or to hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account,” the report said.

The report said the SADC summit should give Zimbabwe strict guidelines and deadlines on complying with basic political reforms.

“SADC leaders should stand with the people of Zimbabwe by calling for urgent reforms to address the country’s political and human rights crisis,” said Gagnon.

“Without these necessary changes, Zimbabwe’s inclusive government will continue to be built on sand.” — AFP

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