The U.S.-Africa Summit Sessions Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Missed

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe was not invited to the US-Africa summit happening this week, due to US sanctions, but the summit must keep Zimbabweans, many of whom have been suppressed and denied their basic human rights, in mind. (Photo Credit: Mike Segar-Pool/Getty Images)

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe was not invited to the US-Africa summit happening this week, due to US sanctions, but the summit must keep Zimbabweans, many of whom have been suppressed and denied their basic human rights, in mind. (Photo Credit: Mike Segar-Pool/Getty Images)

This blog posting is part of a series Amnesty USA is publishing to coincide with the U.S.-Africa Summit occurring August 4-6th, 2014. We are utilizing the series to highlight human rights concerns on the continent we feel critically need to be addressed during the summit discussions.

Contributed by Dr. Rowly Brucken, Zimbabwe Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe was not invited to the U.S.-Africa summit this week, as he is currently subject to U.S. sanctions. But let’s imagine he was invited, and what he could have contributed to several events on just the first day:

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Zimbabwe: Where Freedom Isn’t Free

Activists, such as Jenni Williams of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) can be imprisoned in Zimbabwe for peaceful demonstrations (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

Activists, such as Jenni Williams of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) can be imprisoned in Zimbabwe for peaceful demonstrations (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

By Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International Zimbabwe Researcher

On Friday, April 18, 2014, Zimbabwe commemorates 34 years of independence. As usual, there will be the official gatherings and speeches to remind us of the journey to independence.

Amid all the pomp and ceremony, I dare remind people that Zimbabwe remains a country where organizing a peaceful protest can land you behind bars.

Two things happened this week reminding us of the many human rights challenges facing the country today.

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Loud and Clear: Women’s Rights, In Action!

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda  (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).

As we reflected on 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls and its themes, including early marriage, violence against women, and sexual and reproductive health, we got to wondering: What does all this integrated human rights talk look like in practice?

So we turned to a woman who walks the talk and leads change herself, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda. Take a look at her examples of women’s participation in claiming their own rights. Then take action on an issue important to you, and join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay connected. (Don’t forget to join the World YWCA’s efforts, too!)

In your experience, what does participation mean in the context of women’s rights in your country?

For women to participate, it [is] important that they know and are aware of their rights, have the social empowerment to engage and the space to exercise their voice. Women’s community groups, organizations and networks…have provided the platforms for such participation.

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South Africa Gets Universal on Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe speaks next to first lady Grace Mugabe. (Photo credit: JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

In the wake of contested presidential and parliamentary elections in 2008, Zimbabwe experienced high levels of political violence. Amnesty International documented deaths, disappearances, torture, and arrests of civilians, political opposition members and civil society. Citizens were rounded up and taken to “re-education camps,” which were mostly school buildings in rural areas, where they were forced to pledge allegiance and sing songs in support of President Robert Mugabe’s political party, ZANU-PF. Women were also brutally raped, often by multiple perpetrators.

Zimbabwe has not signed the Rome Statute, so they are not subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court unless referred by the UN Security Council. However, South Africa has signed the Rome Statute and in doing so, made a commitment to pursuing international justice. A South African court previously held that the country has a requirement under this commitment to investigate, arrest and prosecute perpetrators of torture in Zimbabwe who cross the border into South Africa-but prosecutors declined to do so and the government appealed that decision.

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Rule of Law vs. Repression in Zimbabwe

Okay Machisa has been remanded in custody until 30 January© ZimRights

Okay Machisa has been remanded in custody until 30 January© ZimRights

In early 2009, Zimbabwe entered an agreement to form a unity government following contested elections in 2008. Part of that agreement required the establishment of a new constitution through public consultation and a referendum vote by citizens. Due to political maneuvering, purposeful delays, and budget shortcuts that referendum has not occurred. Accordingly, new elections are mandated no later than October 2013. What does all this mean?

It means Zimbabwe, a country without an election free from violence and intimidation in one form or another since really, well, independence, will have elections sooner rather than later. While the opposition party MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) does not have clean hands, most violence is perpetuated by the party with government control for over 30 years, ZANU-PF. Under the unity government, ZANU-PF retained control of security structures in Zimbabwe, and continues to use the police, security agents, and courts to harass, intimidate, threaten and torture civil society members, political opposition figures and human rights defenders.

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Three Reasons Why I Can’t Wait For Thursday

eve ensler

Eve Ensler will keynote the XX Factor on October 4th.

On Thursday October 4th, Amnesty International will be holding our 2nd Annual Women’s Rights Forum in Washington, D.C.

The XX Factor: Town Hall on Women’s Rights, will bring together human rights defenders, issue experts and grassroots activists on women’s human rights work to talk about the frontline women’s rights issues in the United States, and around the world. That, in and of itself, is worthy of excitement. But that isn’t all!

Here are 3 reasons to get excited about this year’s XX Factor.

1. With little more than a month until the U.S. elections, now is the time to set our agenda for the rights of women and girls for the next four years. Our panelists – Kierra Johnson, Executive Director at Choice USA, feminist scholar Linda Hirshman and Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President of the National Women’s Law Center, will tackle issues ranging from women’s economic status to reproductive freedom, as well as the importance of women’s political participation in November, and beyond.

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Zimbabwe Goes After Activists Again

Earlier this week, scores of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) members were arrested and detained by riot police during a march in Bulawayo, including National Coordinator Magadonga Mahlangu. All were eventually released without charge, but the efforts of police to harass and intimidate serve as a reminder of the challenges to practicing freedom of expression and assembly in Zimbabwe.

WOZA members have been conducting a series of protests demanding the draft constitution process be completed and brought to a vote. Currently Zimbabwe does not actually have a constitution. It has operated for 30 years under the Lancaster House agreement, which governed the transition from UK colonial power to self-government.

It has been modified multiple times, but following the political violence of the 2008 elections and the subsequently negotiated Government of National Unity (GNU), it is mandated that a new constitution be drafted and voted on through a referendum process. This process has been delayed multiple times and many civil society organizations in Zimbabwe express concern the process has been politicized and does not adequately reflect rights and government structures desired by Zimbabwean citizens.

Zimbabwe's Continuing Struggle for Freedom

zimbabwe flagApril 18th is Zimbabwe National Day. This year, Zimbabwe will commemorate 32 years of independence from colonial rule. While today is a day to celebrate, freedom has its limits in Zimbabwe.

Specifically, the rights to freedom of expression and assembly are sharply curtailed by the government. In March, six people were convicted of “conspiracy to commit public violence.” Just how did they conspire? They gathered with others last year to watch video footage of the Arab Spring events in Egypt and Tunisia.

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Celebrating a Fearless Human Rights Defender, Jenni Williams

Jenni williams women of zimbabwe arise

Jenni leading protest march in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, February 2012. Jenni was arrested for the 40th time that day. Photo courtesy of WOZA.

Every year on March 8th we celebrate International Women’s Day. I have been blessed to know many amazing women in my life: my mom, my sisters, my aunts, my friends. It’s nice there is a day of the year set aside to honor and remember strong, powerful women who make a difference in our world.

Ginetta Sagan was one of those women. Ms. Sagan, once a political prisoner herself, was a fearless and outspoken human rights defender who tirelessly worked to improve the lives of others. Amnesty International USA established a fund in her honor which annually recognizes a woman who, often at great personal risk, dedicates her life to improving the lives of others.

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