The Elders

Press release

The Elders: Current government cannot lead Zimbabwe out of humanitarian crisis

One month after being refused entry to Zimbabwe, The Elders release a detailed report expressing concern about the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation, ongoing human rights violations and the inability of the current government to relieve the suffering of their people.

Download Full Report:
Zimbabwe Initiative: Report on the Visit to Southern Africa, November 2008

The Elders have released a detailed report on the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe following their recent visit to the region. The report calls on SADC leaders to acknowledge the seriousness of the refugee crisis in the region, stop deportations to Zimbabwe and establish a regional coordination mechanism to address and contain Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic.

Speaking in Paris, where they are meeting privately, The Elders have also expressed their concern about the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation, ongoing human rights violations and the inability of the current government to relieve the suffering of their people. They urge SADC to engage more actively in accelerating the transition of power in Zimbabwe to an inclusive power-sharing government.

Three members of The Elders, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former United States President Jimmy Carter and international advocate for women and children's rights Mrs Graça Machel tried to visit Zimbabwe on 22 and 23 November but were unable to enter the country. Instead they met Zimbabwean political leaders, civil society and business representatives, donors, aid workers and UN agency heads over three days in Johannesburg.

The report of their visit is addressed to Zimbabwe's political leaders, SADC leaders and donors. It has also been received by the UN Secretary-General and the President of the UN Security Council.

While the focus of the report is the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, the Elders group as a whole has been following events since their colleagues' visit, and have added their support to calls for an accelerated transition of power in Zimbabwe.

"There is bitter disappointment in the current leadership," said Mr Annan. "This government has not demonstrated the ability to lead the country out of its current crisis. The process of transition to an inclusive government must be accelerated and I urge SADC leaders to play a more active role in pressing for that to occur."

Graça Machel urged SADC leaders to visit Zimbabwe themselves. "We were not able to enter the country, but I am pleased that South Africa's government is planning a fact-finding mission and I would urge all the leaders of SADC to visit Zimbabwe to assess the humanitarian situation first-hand. Zimbabwe's leaders are failing their people and the region cannot ignore the suffering of millions any longer."

"Zimbabwe urgently needs the rapid formation of a workable government," said President Carter. "The regime has been in denial about what is happening in their country, and the region has not really wanted to know either," said President Carter. "The cholera epidemic has shown just how serious the situation in Zimbabwe has become."

The Elders chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu was not able to join the Elders in Paris for their meeting, but said from South Africa that Robert Mugabe "has destroyed a wonderful country. A country that used to be a bread basket has now become a basket case."

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, former UN Commissioner for Human Rights and acting chair of the Elders said: "There are grave and flagrant human rights abuses occurring. Jestina Mukoko, Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project was abducted from her home last Wednesday by a gang of plain-clothed men armed with guns. We are deeply concerned about her and others who have disappeared."

"The future of the country cannot be in the hands of the present government," said former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland.

Former Brazilian President Fernando H. Cardoso said: "There is no longer any alternative - Zimbabwe's economy is at a standstill and the situation will only get worse while the political situation remains uncertain."

Ela Bhatt, founder of the three-million strong Self Employed Women's Association in India appealed to the leaders "to restore normalcy and peace so that the poor can earn their daily bread. When workers are not able to pay for a few loaves of bread with their monthly earnings, their leaders are not meeting the most basic needs of their people."

Lakhdar Brahimi, former Algerian Foreign Minister said "A liberation movement and its leaders lose their legitimacy when they not only ignore the suffering of their people but actually act in a manner that increases their suffering dramatically. African leaders in general - and SADC leaders in particular - have a duty to come to the assistance of the people."

Elders to meet President Sarkozy on 60th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This weekend the Elders are meeting privately in Paris, where they are also celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On Monday they will meet President Nicolas Sarkozy and attend a ceremony at the Elysee Palace to mark the anniversary.

The Elders-inspired Every Human Has Rights campaign has reintroduced the Universal Declaration to millions of people around the world. For more information and to make your commitment to upholding the Declaration go to www.everyhumanhasrights.org.

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