Zimbabwe Slammed On Rights

Woman sits amidst rubble of her house demolished by government forces, Harare, Zimbabwe, 6-10-05
The Zimbabwe government's campaign to clear the homes, businesses and even the gardens of the poor from its cities has sparked more violence, a pro-government newspaper reported Wednesday, as state radio claimed the displaced are being provided for.

The U.N. estimates that as many as 1.5 million people so far have been made homeless by police burning or bulldozing their shacks out of existence in what the government calls a clean up campaign in the cities. The political opposition, which has its base among the urban poor, says the 4-week-old Operation Murambatsvina, or Drive Out Trash, is meant to punish its supporters.

A U.N. spokesman said Monday that Anna Tibaijuka, the Tanzanian head of UN Habitat, will visit Zimbabwe soon to assess the impact of Operation Murambatsvina.

On Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called on African leaders to confront Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe about his government's human rights violations.

He said Britain has done much to focus global attention on the shaky human rights record in Zimbabwe - a former British colony - but those efforts have run up against a lack of interest in Africa to do anything about it.

"Unless, and until, Africa's leaders as a whole recognize what is going on (in Zimbabwe), take action not just to condemn it but deal with it, we are likely to be in for many more months of this kind of tyranny until president Mugabe moves aside," said Straw.

The Mugabe government said Tuesday that besides knocking down shacks and the kiosks of street vendors, police are intensifying efforts to destroy vegetable gardens the urban poor plant in vacant lots around Harare, saying the plots threatened the environment.