Zimbabwe arms embargo urged as churches fear genocide

By staff writers
April 23, 2008

An arms embargo on Zimbabwe is being urged as church leaders in the country say that without international intervention Zimbabweans face genocide.

In a joint statement, signed by the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, church leaders all called for outside help to end post-poll unrest.

"Organised violence perpetrated against individuals, families and communities who are accused of campaigning or voting for the 'wrong' political party ... has been unleashed throughout the country," the statement said.

"We warn the world that if nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other hot spots in Africa and elsewhere.

"We appeal to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union and the United Nations to work towards arresting the deteriorating political and security situation in Zimbabwe."

Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga urged the UN Security Council yesterday to impose an immediate arms embargo on the country.

Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organisation for 162 national Catholic charities, said international observers must also be sent to Zimbabwe to monitor human rights.

Church worker reports from within Zimbabwe suggest increased levels of violence.

A Chinese arms shipment was refused permission to unload in South Africa over the weekend.

Caritas is urging all African countries to refuse to allow the arms to travel through their territory.

Cardinal Rodriguez said: "No more arms must reach Zimbabwe unless there is the guarantee that they will not be used against the people. Church workers are reporting an upsurge in violence that is deeply troubling.

"The international community has a clear mandate to act by approving a UN Security Council resolution enforcing an arms embargo against the country. The UN must also act proactively by sending observers to Zimbabweto monitor any human rights abuses. The Government of Zimbabwe should welcome international monitors.

"As Pope Benedict XVI said to the UN last week, if states are unable to guarantee the protection of their people, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments. It is indifference or failure to intervene that does the real damage."

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