Western countries concerned about Zimbabwe's brutal crackdown on protests

Tuesday August 20 2019

Zimbabwean anti-riot police patrol the streets

Zimbabwean anti-riot police patrol the streets of Harare on August 16, 2019, after the High Court upheld a police ban on protests and march planned by the main opposition party over worsening economic conditions in the country. PHOTO | JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP 

KITSEPILE NYATHI
By KITSEPILE NYATHI
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Western countries on Tuesday condemned Zimbabwe’s heavy handed response to protests against the deteriorating economic situation in the country.

In a statement, the embassies said they were seriously concerned about the attacks on activists and banning of the protests.

“Intimidation, harassment and physical attacks on human rights defenders...opposition politicians – prior to, during and following the demonstration in Harare on 16 August – are cause for great concern,” reads the joint statement.

“The heads of mission call on the authorities to respect the constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression as well as to peaceful protest, and urge all political party leaders and supporters to abstain from threats and incitement to violence as well as acts of violence or vandalism.”

The missions include; European Union, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States.

They said that brutal crackdown on demonstrators dented President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s efforts to put Zimbabwe back on a reform path.

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“Only by addressing concretely and rapidly these human rights violations will the government of Zimbabwe give credibility to its commitments to address longstanding governance challenges,” added the statement.

The criticism came after police banned a protest by the opposition set for Tuesday in the central city of Gweru.

Opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had planned to call for protests across the country beginning last Friday in Harare. Police, however, banned the marches saying they will turn violent.

Human rights groups, several opposition and civil society say a number of activists have been abducted and tortured in recent weeks.

However, the government accuses discharged members of the security services loyal to ex-president Robert Mugabe of being behind the violence.

Zimbabwe’s economy has been on a free fall due to a severe drought and worsening foreign currency shortages.

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