Following the release of the official results of
the March 29 presidential elections, declaring the victory of the
opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai by a margin that calls for a
second round, the climate in Zimbabwe is growing more strained by the
day. While opposition leaders decide whether or not to participate in a
run-off election, reports various human rights organizations
indicate an increase in the abuse of power and violence against anyone
daring to oppose the government of Robert Mugabe.
published by the international press confirms the allegations made by
local NGOs that nearly 100 members of the opposition party Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) were detained by police at the party
headquarters. Furthermore, more than 200 members of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network
(ZESN), an independent group of election observers, were arrested
earlier this month in Harare, including those who were there taking
refuge a wave of violent attacks committed by the police (see more
at http://www.zesn.org.zw). “The situation in Zimbabwe makes monitoring
by the international community all the more necessary”, said Otto Saki,
the organization Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
the elections, Brazil sent an official observation mission, comprised of
Congressman Antônio Carlos Pannunzio and Brazilian Ambassador to
Zimbabwe Raul de Taunay. In the official report of this mission, Brazil
confirmed that “the election took place in an atmosphere of serenity,
without disturbance, impediment to circulation, intimidation or any
episode that might jeopardize the normality of the voting” (press
release No. 159 – 03/04/2008).
Conectas has urgently requested
that the Brazilian government publicly condemn these acts of violence.
On April 25, it sent a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Relations
asking for Brazil to review its position. “The responsibility of Brazil
as an election observer requires it to cease being remiss about the
serious acts of violence being perpetrated by the Zimbabwean government
against its own citizens”, said Lucia Nader, International Relations
Coordinator at Conectas (see the letter here).
June 2007, two Zimbabwean activists visited Brazil at the invitation of
Conectas Human Rights to raise the awareness of Brazilian and Latin
American institutions to the ongoing human rights violations committed
by the Mugabe government. They met with members of Congress
Brazil’s ruling Workers Party (PT) and the Social Democratic Party
(PSDB), with the Special Secretariat for Human Rights, union leaders and
academics, and a group of Latin American human rights organizations.
This meeting with NGOs was also the first step in the formation of a
Latin American coalition mobilized to promote human rights in Zimbabwe ; the Friends of Zimbabwe.
In their meeting with members of
Congress, the activists requested the deployment of an electoral
observation mission for the March 2008 presidential elections. After
this meeting, Conectas kept in contact with the PSDB and PT parties,
insisting on the importance of the Brazilian electoral mission. Half way
through March, Brazil was officially invited by the Mugabe government
to send observers to the country. Congressman Antônio Carlos Pannunzio
(PSDB, São Paulo), who had met with the activists, went to Harare, the
capital of Zimbabwe, accompanied by Brazil’s Ambassador to the country
Raul de Taunay, to join this mission.
However, the debate on
Zimbabwe was not restricted to the Brazilian Legislative Branch.
Conectas, together with the other organizations comprising the Friends
of Zimbabwe, took steps to publicize the information it received
directly civil society organizations in the African country,
collaborating with the Brazilian press and helping report on the
election. Furthermore, Conectas also assisted two Brazilian journalists
to travel to the country and cover events on the ground, with the
support of the Open Society Institute (OSI).
Following the worsening
of post-election violence, Conectas is now urging the Brazilian
government to adopt a position that is more conducive to the defense of
the supremacy of human rights. “Brazil cannot close its eyes to this
situation again”, said Juana Kweitel, also Conectas.