.- A coalition of Catholic and Protestant church leaders has appealed to the world to end the state-sponsored terror and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) reports. The leaders fear the crisis could turn into a situation that leads to genocide.
Fears of an escalation are being stoked further by a Chinese ship suspected of carrying weapons for the Zimbabwe governing party continuing to seek a harbor to unload its cargo.
The coalition of religious leaders has appealed to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU), and the United Nations to halt the deteriorating political situation.
The already dire economic crisis in Zimbabwe has been compounded by the refusal of the Zimbabwe Election Commission to release the results from the March 29 general election. The Movement for Democratic Change claims that its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, won the election, while the ruling party of President Robert Mugabe, ZANU-PF, claims the opposition engaged in election tampering.
“We warn the world that if nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other hotspots in Africa and elsewhere,” the coalition has said.
The coalition leaders described the systematic violence that state security forces have inflicted upon innocent civilians in the countryside. Especially targeted are individuals, families, and communities accused of supporting the opposition in the general elections. The ruling government has set up youth militia and war veteran or military base camps in different parts of the country to support the violence, the coalition alleges.
“People are being abducted, tortured and humiliated by being asked to repeat slogans of the political party they are alleged not to support, ordered to attend mass meetings where they are told they voted for the ‘wrong’ candidate and should never repeat it in the run-off election for President, and, in some cases, people are murdered,” the coalition said.
According to CNN, a cargo ship from China has been denied access to African coastal ports because it is suspected to be shipping weapons destined for the land-locked Zimbabwe. Dockworkers in the South African port of Durban said they would not handle the cargo because of fears the weapons would be used by the Zimbabwe government against its people.
Deputy U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey told CNN that the U.S. has been “tracking this vessel for a few days now and we don't think it is appropriate for anyone to provide additional weapons in Zimbabwe as they are going through a political crisis.”
Casey said the U.S. is "pleased no country in the region has allowed the vessel to offload" its alleged cargo of weapons, which is believed to include small arms, rifles, and ammunition destined for Zimbabwe security forces. It is hoped that China will recall the vessel, which is still seeking to offload its cargo in other African countries.
In an interview last week with CNN, opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai said he was concerned about the Chinese ship and feared the weapons would be used to intimidate voters.
According to CISA, in some populous urban areas in Zimbabwe, poverty and famine are widespread. Poor harvest and delays of maize imports from neighboring countries have driven up the price of food. Victims of the violence find that hospitals have no drugs or medicine to treat them.
Saying a “pall of despondency” hangs over Zimbabwe, the religious coalition has called for an immediate end to the violence, the closure of the militia camps, and the release of the delayed poll results.
“The unprecedented delay in the publication of these results has caused anxiety, frustration, depression, suspicion and in some cases illness among people of Zimbabwe both at home and abroad,” the coalition said.
Addressing the people of Zimbabwe, the coalition appealed for peace, saying, “We urge you to refuse to be used for a political party or other people’s selfish ends, especially where it concerns violence against other people, including those who hold different views from your own. It was the Lord Jesus who said, ‘Whatever you do to one of these little ones, you do it unto me’.”