Drought, Disappearances, Disarray in Zimbabwe as President Mugabe Marks Another Birthday

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Itai Dzamara, Zimbabwean journalist, peaceful pro-democracy activist and leader of the protest group Occupy Africa Unity Square, disappeared on 9 March 2015 in Harare.

Itai Dzamara, Zimbabwean journalist, peaceful pro-democracy activist and leader of the protest group Occupy Africa Unity Square, disappeared on 9 March 2015 in Harare.

“I still have hope. I have forgiven the abductors. But I want to know where is Itai and what have they done to him. I will not rest until I know.”

Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe for 36 years, turns 92 this month. His birthday celebrations are known as lavish occasions; last year his guests dined on baby elephant. This year, reports are the big event will occur this weekend in a stadium with a purported planned budget of $800,000. Mugabe’s personal photographer states he is planning a concert, a bash dubbed “Well done, Bob,” to honor Mugabe and his contributions. The festivities will occur in the wake of President Mugabe declaring a national emergency due to the drought gripping the region. An estimated 2.4 million Zimbabweans are in need of food aid to avoid starvation due to crop failures and livestock deaths. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Without Community Radio, No “Gooood Morning, Zimbabwe!”

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Community radio stations provide a vital outlet to share information most relevant to where people live and what affects them most. But despite a 2001 law that established a licensing regime, the government has only authorized new licenses for groups aligned with the ruling ZANU-PF party. There is a critical need for marginalized communities to have access to information that promotes education, shared experiences, history, music and oral traditions. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Journalist and Activist Disappeared in Zimbabwe

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tai Dzamara (left) and fellow activists of the Occupy Africa Unity Square protest, have vowed to continue with their sit in until their demands are met by President Robert Mugabe. (Picture by Daily News)

tai Dzamara (left) and fellow activists of the Occupy Africa Unity Square protest, have vowed to continue with their sit in until their demands are met by President Robert Mugabe. (Picture by Daily News)

On the morning of March 9, in front of a Harare neighborhood barbershop, five men in civilian clothes abducted journalist and activist Itai Dzamara. He was handcuffed, bundled into a white truck with no visible license plates, and has not been seen since. He has disappeared, leaving a wife and two young children behind to grieve and demand he be brought home. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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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