Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Voices from Zimbabwe at Today's White House Lunch

A young Zimbabwean woman
who was tortured and raped during the
violent June election campaigns.

Dear President Jimmy Carter,

Warm greetings from the World Student Christian Federation and its Zimbabwe Advocacy Office in Geneva. We trust that you have had a bright start to the New Year despite continuing global turmoil and human suffering.

We write to thank you for your consistent and inspiring commitment to the protection of human rights and the rule of law the world over, but in particular your support for the people of Zimbabwe throughout 2008. Your November 2008 mission to our country as part of the Group of Elders opened the eyes of the world to the gravity of the humanitarian disaster. At the same time the Elders’ mission also exposed the great lengths to which the regime of Robert Mugabe and his security chiefs are prepared to go to sacrifice thousands of innocent lives for the sake of remaining in power, maintaining their privileged lifestyles and evading justice.

President Carter, as you meet today for the historic lunch with President-elect Barack Obama, President George W. Bush and former Presidents George H.W Bush and Bill Clinton we ask that the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe speak through you to your fellow presidents. When you will be meeting we hope you will let the presidents know that Robert Mugabe has just flown to Malaysia for his vacation leaving almost 2,000 Zimbabweans dying from a rampant cholera epidemic. Over 5 million Zimbabweans (almost half of the population) are still facing starvation according to the UN World Food Program. Schools have failed to re-open this January and there has been no learning for months now. Hospitals are shutting down throughout Zimbabwe and expecting mothers and their new born babies are dying needlessly because the public maternity care facilities have collapsed. Since Mugabe’s ZANU PF party lost the March 2008 elections Zimbabwe has not had a legitimate and functional government and erstwhile hopes for change are dying.

The response of the Mugabe regime to all this suffering and civil society protests has been to return to use of violence and abuse of police powers and the judiciary. Forty-three human rights defenders, including a 2-year old baby were abducted early December and were only produced in court on Christmas eve. As you meet with Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton, these activists are still languishing in inhumane conditions in police cells throughout Harare despite the best efforts of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

We are aware of the pressures on the President-elect on the international affairs front, especially with the situation in the Middle-East, but we pray that with your help Zimbabwe will not be forgotten. African diplomacy has done its best but still thousands of lives continue to be lost and the death of the soul of a nation continues. Calls for a retun to sanity from respected African religious leaders such as Archbishops Desmond Tutu and John Sentamu have, among many others, been ignored. The Obama presidency can help deter the dictatorship from causing further suffering by showing from the outset that the US and the international community are not too distracted to care and will exercise the international responsibility to protect the sovereignty of a population whose illegitimate government continues to violate its own people and bring all perpetrators of these violations to account.

May God bless you. And may God bless Zimbabwe.

Yours sincerely,
Zimbabwe Advocacy Office
World Student Christian Federation

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