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Call on the UN to end violence in Zimbabwe

18 June 2008

cc:

HE President Thabo Mbeki

HE President Levy Mwanawasa

HE President Jakaya Kikwete

Geneva, 18 June 2008

Your Excellency, 

I offer greetings on behalf of the constituency of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

We in the World Council continue to be concerned for the state of affairs in Zimbabwe following the preliminary round of voting on 29 March and in anticipation of balloting in the presidential runoff election of 27 June.

Representatives of churches and other organizations in Zimbabwe have been contacting and visiting us with news of recent events there. The WCC has also received an extensive dossier from the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa prepared under the leadership of Dr Allan Boesak of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa. Such information, together with media reports of violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe, raises our apprehension and concern.

I am forwarding to you the dossier compiled by Dr Boesak and others, with their observations and recommendations, as an excellent and alarming source of information gathered on the ground.

We are dismayed at news of the brutality meted out by police and other government forces in Zimbabwe, and we are appalled at President Mugabe's statement last week that he and ZANU-PF would go to "war" rather than acknowledge an election victory by the opposition MDC if there were to come to pass. This attitude on the part of the president undermines the integrity of elections and belittles the Zimbabwean electorate.

The peace of Zimbabwe has been shattered. Harassment, beatings, arrests and ransacking of property have already extended into the churches as well as agencies of civil society.

Where the Mugabe government fails in its responsibility to protect the Zimbabwean people, the international community must assume that burden; in this endeavour, the United Nations should assume a leading role. We express our appreciation for the visit of senior UN official, Haile Menkerios, and pray these efforts have lasting impact.

I wish to commend and lend my support to the authors of the open letter "African Leaders Call for Free and Fair Elections in Zimbabwe" which has been widely circulated in newspapers and on the Internet. The authors' analysis of the situation is insightful, and they call attention to the pressing need for restoration of full access to humanitarian and aid agencies, recruitment of an adequate number of international election observers and a strategy for uniting Zimbabweans following the election.

In light of the reports we have received, the WCC

  1. Calls for an end to atrocities in Zimbabwe, as described in the attached dossier,

  2. Has invited the churches to set aside a season of prayer with Zimbabwe, beginning with a world-wide day of prayer on Sunday 22 June 2008,

  3. Appeals to the government of Zimbabwe to assure free and fair elections,

  4. Appeals to the government to allow international election monitors in urban, suburban and rural areas,

  5. Appeals to the government to allow and encourage humanitarian aid workers to fulfill the needs for water, food, medicine and other life-sustaining resources,

  6. Calls on the churches, especially in southern Africa, to encourage a process of reconciliation in Zimbabwe as soon as the elections have concluded.

Free and fair elections are essential to democracy, and we are anxious to see the success of this process in Zimbabwe. As the WCC Central Committee stated in February of this year:

Although the Bible offers no description of the definitive political system, it indicates that every system has both the potential for participation, and for the abuse of power. For Christians, the Hebrew prophetic traditions - as well as the Christian tradition - offer the reminder that people of faith must embrace the responsibility to be engaged in the civil political systems of which they are a part… In democratic systems, elections serve as a way for people to confer legitimacy on a participatory democratic political system.

We in the WCC appreciate the many efforts being undertaken by the United Nations, and we thank you for your dedication to the well-being of humanity. Please know that the World Council and our member churches support you in the important work of transition and healing that faces the international community in Zimbabwe.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia

General Secretary