WESTERN diplomats in Zimbabwe have expressed “great concern” about human-rights abuses in the country, after protests against the country’s economic crisis were met with brutal force.
Last Friday, supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change gathered in Africa Unity Square, in Harare, in defiance of a court ruling against a planned protest. Police fired tear gas at the protesters and charged at them with batons.
In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, the EU diplomatic mission in Zimbabwe, together with those of the UK, the United States, Germany, and other Western nations, said: “Intimidation, harassment, and physical attacks on human-rights defenders, trade union and civil society representatives, and opposition politicians — prior to, during and following the demonstration in Harare on 16 August — are cause for great concern.”
The diplomats urged the security forces to exercise restraint in maintaining public order. They reiterated their calls “for the implementation of the government’s political and economic reform agenda, underpinned by inclusive national dialogue and increased efforts to address the severe social situation”.
On Monday, police issued a notice banning a planned demonstration in Bulawayo, in the south of Zimbabwe. On Tuesday, police were called to prevent a planned protest in Gweru, in central Zimbabwe.
The UN Food Agency, World Food Programme (WFP), said this month that Zimbabwe was facing its worst-ever hunger crisis (News, 16 August). By October, it said, one third of the rural population — some 3.6 million people — would be food-insecure, “and, by January, the figure is expected to increase to 5.5 million during the inter-harvest season”.
Inflation is at a ten-year high in Zimbabwe, and there are shortages of basic supplies such as fuel, power, and water, the BBC reports.