Zimbabwe's Christian students want election thugs brought to justice

By Ecumenical News International
October 1, 2008

Christian students in Zimbabwe have urged the country's new government expected to be forged out of a power-sharing agreement to ensure that perpetrators of violence that marred a presidential runoff election in June face the law.

"Following a period of violence, hate speech and polarisation of the Zimbabwean community, the country badly needs a healing process and to this extent the new government arrangement is a welcome development," the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe said in a statement.

It added that the new government should "face the issue of transitional justice, and the rule of law should be allowed to take its course on those who were behind the violence".

Zimbabwe's presidential, parliamentary and local elections in March were generally seen as free from the violence that had characterised previous votes, but violence broke out in the lead-up to a presidential runoff election in June.

Robert Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since its independence from Britain in 1980, was the sole candidate in the runoff after Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change party withdrew, citing violence against his supporters.

The MDC claimed at least 100 of its supporters were killed, thousands injured and tens of thousands displaced in a campaign of violence. Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in turn accused MDC activists of torching houses belonging to its supporters.

The students' group said it deplored "the post-March 29 violence instigated, organized and sponsored by the state against its opponents".

Talks mediated by the South African leader Thabo Mbeki, following Mugabe's re-election in the disputed runoff vote, led to a power-sharing agreement on 25 September between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a smaller MDC faction.

Under the agreement, Mugabe is immune from prosecution for political crimes during his nearly three-decade rule, although members of Zanu-PF could face the law for such offences.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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