Complying with the Abuja Agreement (October 2001)

Regrettably the Abuja Agreement has had little or no effect in reducing levels of political violence in Zimbabwe. There has been no discernible change in the pattern of violence from September onwards from that in the preceding months, except there has been some increase in violence perpetrated by MDC members. Whilst this is regrettable and must be condemned, it is a predictable consequence of a lengthy and intense campaign of State-sponsored violence that has been waged against the MDC.

The cases in this report are only those cases involving victims who have reported to the Forum since the Abuja Agreement. The cases show that the violence is not localized but general. Most of the perpetrators are State agents and those acting with the acquiescence of the State. Militia groups and ZANU (PF) supporters are the predominant perpetrators, as they have been since February last year. There is evidence that large groups are now moving around the rural areas operating as torture squads.

The Government has not responded to the Abuja Agreement by ensuring that the “confidence-building” measure of ensuring obedience to the rule of law is implemented. There is no credible evidence to show that the Government has taken proper steps to rein in the forces of violence over which it has control. No instructions seem to have been given to the police to take firm action against all those guilty of political violence and intimidation. The police continue to disregard much of the violence being perpetrated by ZANU (PF) supporters. It seems that the only persons arrested for political violence since the Abuja Agreement have been MDC supporters. This is despite the fact that in many of the incidents involving ZANU (PF) supporters the victims knew the perpetrators. It is also disturbing that the Zimbabwe Republic Police are implicated in five of the thirty-eight cases reported. On the other hand, in the torture cases from Gokwe, the victims were actually rescued by the police, but there are no reports of arrests or charges being preferred against the perpetrators.

Zimbabwe continues to be wracked by political violence. This violence has caused great instability and has created a climate of fear. Many people are suffering gross human rights abuses and the violence is causing enormous damage to the economy and to social structures. The use of violence to force people to vote for a particular political party is a complete negation of the democratic electoral process which requires that all voters should be free to vote for whatever political party they choose. It is impossible for the country to make progress and to develop economically whilst this violence rages. All peace-loving Zimbabweans want the violence to end.

The Human Rights Forum calls upon the Government to restore the rule of law and thereby break the cycle of violence and counter-violence. It also calls upon the Commonwealth Ministerial Group members and the SADC leaders to establish as soon as possible an independent monitoring body to be based in Zimbabwe. This body should consist of credible persons who will be able be carry out professional and impartial monitoring duties. The main task of this body will be to monitor compliance with the Abuja Agreement. It should have the mandate to monitor compliance with the obligation “take firm action against violence and intimidation”. Any persons or organizations wishing to do so should be able to make reports to this body about alleged incidents of political violence. The body would then carry out investigations to determine the veracity of these reports.

Finally, given the extent of political violence in Zimbabwe, it is vitally important that groupings such as SADC and the Commonwealth take appropriate steps to help ensure that the upcoming elections in Zimbabwe are free and fair. Here we would point out that the SADC Parliamentary Forum has produced “Norms and Standards for Elections in the SADC Region”, which provide the minimum conditions for the holding of free and fair elections, and we would recommend their immediate implementation in Zimbabwe.

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