Following the withdrawal of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai from the country’s presidential race, the Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa have asked all African states to reject President Robert Mugabe should he be declared winner of Friday’s presidential run-off election. They also warned a humanitarian crisis looms unless there is a unified international effort to rebuke the abuses of the Mugabe government.
A coalition of religious groups has even called for international intervention to remedy the crisis.
“Sadly, the politically motivated violence, intimidation and torture have made a just and fair run-off presidential election virtually impossible,” the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) said in a statement, the Catholic Information Service for Africa reports.
The statement, signed by SACBC spokesman Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, said Tsvangirai, the candidate of Zimbabwe’s opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), withdrew from the election because it has “degenerated into a sham.”
“The electoral playing field is not level. Opposition candidates cannot present their views to the electorate, nor do they have equitable access to the media. Monitoring systems are not in place,” the statement continued.
The bishops called for the creation of a consensus model of government that involves all Zimbabweans, The statement said a “winner-takes-all” solution only rewards the ruling party for its atrocities and criminality.
The statement warned that the “atrocities and barbarism” of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party are being documented. It also said the actions of Mugabe and his party are a “blight on every African.”
“Mr. Mugabe’s actions and those of his generals, their wives, his thug supporters and the so-called ‘war veterans’ are offensive in the eyes of God. Judgment awaits,” the bishops said.
The SABC statement warned that violence, famine and uncertainty will “engulf” the whole region of Southern Africa without a unified international effort.
The Brussels-based Catholic group International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity (CISDE) joined the ecumenical group APRODEV and the Ecumenical Zimbabwe Network (EZN) in calling for international intervention from the United Nations. The groups cited U.N. Security Council resolution 1674, which established as an international norm the “responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.”
“What is needed is international intervention,” John Stewart, director of the Zimbabwean human rights NGO NOVASC, said in a press release from the coalition. “The direct intervention of an international, African-led presence to guarantee security and the protection and safety of the people is necessary. Militias have to be disarmed, disbanded, demobilized; the state security agencies must be reined in and kept under scrutiny, to prevent them continuing with their campaign of violence and terror, and to prepare the processes of a return to the rule of law and extensive security sector reform.”
The press release said Tsvangirai’s withdrawal from the presidential election “must finally end the pretense of a democratic process.” The coalition also lamented the Mugabe government’s June 4 decision to forbid humanitarian groups from providing humanitarian aid in the country.