NYTimes: Zimbabweans Make Plea for Help as Runoff Nears

六月 26, 2008

By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: June 27, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe — As Zimbabwe’s neighbors urged it to postpone this week’s presidential runoff, hundreds of beaten, newly homeless Zimbabweans gathered Wednesday outside the South African Embassy here in a desperate bid for help during the electoral crisis.

By 8:30 p.m., around 400 people, mainly men displaced by the recent political violence, were pulling down their woolen caps and hunching into thin jackets to sit out one of the coldest nights this winter. Few of them had eaten in the last several days; they began converging outside the embassy in hopes of finding food, water and medical attention.

“The situation is absolutely desperate,” said an opposition official trying to find shelter for 80 women and children at the site.

The scene unfolded amid a scramble of regional and international diplomacy, with many African and Western nations saying the vote set for Friday would be neither free nor fair.

On Wednesday, officials from Swaziland, Angola and Tanzania — the so-called troika empowered to speak for the Southern African Development Community, a regional bloc of 14 nations — called on Zimbabwe to put off the voting because the current crisis would undermine its legitimacy.

Among the most damning voices raised in criticism was that of Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, who, at a dinner in London, condemned a “tragic failure of leadership in Zimbabwe.” He did not identify the object of his criticism by name.

Taking a different tack, Queen Elizabeth II stripped Robert Mugabe, the country’s president for nearly 30 years, of his honorary knighthood as a “mark of revulsion” at the human rights abuses and “abject disregard” for democracy over which he is presiding, the British Foreign Office said Wednesday.

The rebukes reflected the mounting international frustration over Mr. Mugabe’s insistence in going ahead with the runoff on Friday, even though his sole opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out of the race on Sunday. Mr. Tsvangirai cited the persistent violence and intimidation against him, his party and their supporters.

Mr. Mugabe’s government has had a long history of human rights abuses, but he was granted the honorary knighthood during an official visit to Britain in 1994 when, the Foreign Office said, “the conditions in Zimbabwe were very different.”

With the widespread attacks on the opposition, the Foreign Office said the honor could no longer be justified. Stripping away the title is exceedingly rare. A Foreign Office spokesman could think of only one other time it had been done: in 1989 with the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

Mr. Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, was quoted on Wednesday as calling on the United Nations to send peacekeepers to bring calm and help pave the way for new elections in which he could participate as a “legitimate candidate.”

“Zimbabwe will break if the world does not come to our aid,” he said in an op-ed article whose authorship was attributed to him in The Guardian newspaper in London. On Thursday, however, Mr. Tsvangirai distanced himself from the article, saying it “does not reflect my positions or opinions regarding solutions to the Zimbabwean crisis.”

“I am not advocating for military intervention in Zimbabwe by the United Nations or any other organization,” his statement said.

Mr. Tsvangirai took refuge in the Dutch Embassy here on Sunday. He emerged briefly on Wednesday to hold a news conference in which he proposed negotiations, but only if Mr. Mugabe canceled the runoff first.

“We have said we are prepared to negotiate on this side of the 27th, not the other side of the 27th,” Mr. Tsvangirai said, according to Reuters.

In an interview in The Times of London Thursday, Mr. Tsvangirai was quoted as reiterating his demand for negotiations instead of elections. “Negotiations will be over if Mr. Mugabe declares himself the winner and considers himself the president. How can we negotiate?” he was quoted as saying.

The U.S. ambassador in Harare, James D. McGee, said that Mr. Mugabe and his party, ZANU-PF, were determined to hold the runoff “at all costs,” according to the State Department.

“We’ve received reports that ZANU-PF will force people to vote on Friday and also take action against those who refuse to vote,” Mr. McGee said in a conference call described by the State Department.

All over the country, destitute people have fled the violence, and are now looking for food, shelter, protection and medical care.

One woman at a church in Harare held her 11-month-old baby, who had casts on his tiny legs. She said that after her husband, an opposition organizer, went into hiding she had gotten word that ZANU-PF supporters were looking for her, too. She fled with the boy.

She returned home the next day, though, and that is when “the youth,” as foot soldiers of the ruling party are often called, came looking for her, she said. They snatched her son from the bed and hurled him onto the concrete floor, shattering his legs, she said.

Afterward, she was too terrified to move. But that night, when all was quiet, she set out for the opposition headquarters, Harvest House, to seek help there. She was able to carry only her distraught child, and the 12-mile walk took most of the night.

Harvest House was bursting with refugees, but she was able to get care at a hospital. Now her son’s legs stick out at an odd angle below his blue romper suit, encased in plaster casts.

The woman’s blanket was stolen, and because she has been surviving on one meal a day, her thin skirt and jacket hang on her. Her thin legs look as if they, too, might snap.

But when she looks at her baby, her strained face softens and becomes beautiful again. For three days the boy has had only water, she said, because her breast milk has dried up.

“I hate Zimbabwe,” she said. “I want to leave.”

Alan Cowell contributed reporting from Paris and Graham Bowley from New York.

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One Response to “NYTimes: Zimbabweans Make Plea for Help as Runoff Nears”

  1. 药师 Says:

    Robert Mugabe曾经是Zimbabwe的英雄,但现在却是该国的大恶魔。当下没有比什么将当地人民从这位失去理智的独裁者的手中救出来(Mugabe说,现在只有上帝能将他从总统宝座上出下,nucifera希望在上帝还没有做之前,我们人类已先做)

    联合国和SADC首先一定要紧记,现在所发生的是一场严重的人道危机,必须采取迅速和严厉的手段来解决。而南非前总统曼德拉对该国的抨击令人感到欣慰,可当下南非的总统Thabo Mbeki确实令人异常地失望。如今没有什么比那总统对Mugabe地维护让南非更蒙羞。

    也许是时候,南非人民展示自己的良知以及民主的力量。

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