Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga is urging African Union (AU) chairman and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania to quickly call a heads of state summit to authorise the dispatch of troops to Zimbabwe.
Speaking in Nairobi yesterday, he also lamented the AU and Southern Africa Development Community`s continued soft-peddling on Zimbabwe where hundreds have died from cholera in recent days and thousands are threatened by famine.
”Despite this long term violation of the rights of the people of Zimbabwe, the AU and the SADC have, to our continental shame, continued to treat [Robert] Mugabe with kid gloves,” Odinga says.
”President Kikwete must now call an urgent summit of the heads of AU states, who in turn must formulate a resolution to send AU troops into Zimbabwe… because there is no legitimate government in Zimbabwe.
”The AU must send troops into Zimbabwe immediately and remove Mugabe from power. If no troops are available, then AU must allow the UN [United Nations] to send its forces into Zimbabwe with immediate effect, to take over control of the country and ensure urgent humanitarian assistance to the people of dying of cholera and starvation,” he added.
“The power sharing attempt in Zimbabwe has failed disastrously, due to the indecisive conduct on the part of the chief mediator, former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki, and the intransigence of Mugabe.
Odinga also suggested that Mugabe be brought to justice, saying his conduct “deserves no less than investigations by International Criminal Court in The Hague.
“We refuse to accept the idea that African governments must be judged by lesser standards,” Odinga added.
Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu last week made a similar call. Speaking on Dutch television Thursday he said: “”I think now that the world must say, ‘You [Mugabe] have been responsible with your cohorts for gross violations, and you are going to face indictment in The Hague unless you step down’.”
Asked if Mugabe should be removed by force, he said: “Yes, by force — if they say to him: step down, and he refuses, they must do so militarily. He has destroyed a wonderful country. A country that used to be a bread basket — it has now become a basket case.”
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, first as Prime Minister and later as executive president. As his popularity has slipped his rule has become more authoritarian, culminating in two rigged elections earlier this year. After 2000 Mugabe also gradually expropriated the economy to provide patronage to his supporters.
Inflation is currently above 231 000 000%, the economy and food production has largely collapsed as has education, sanitation and health care.
The UN meanwhile says the number of suspected cases of cholera in Zimbabwe now tops 14 000, including 589 reported deaths. The epidemic has also spread to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia as sufferers leave Zimbabwe for treatment.
The UN News Centre says while the bulk of cases have been reported in Harare, the outbreak is now national, with nine out of 10 provinces and two-thirds of regions affected.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA
) cautions that UN updates of the number of cases are based on reports to medical centres around Zimbabwe, and “therefore not portraying the full picture”.
It adds that a shortage of fuel supplies in Zimbabwe is exacerbating the problem.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO
) says it does not have a clear view of the situation in the countryside.
WHO says cases have surged since late last month. It adds it is airlifting emergency supplies from Dubai and mobilizing additional medicines from South Africa.
For its part, the UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF
) says the outbreak is becoming increasingly difficult to control, with Harare suffering from a water shortage.
It said is has made a one-month supply of chemicals to treat water available and is distributing 360 000 litres of drinking water daily.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed in a telephone conversation with South African President Kgalama Motlanthe that the UN and its relief partners must respond quickly to address the humanitarian needs of Zimbabweans and prevent the cholera epidemic from spreading.
Motlanthe has dispatched a task team headed by former director-general in the presidency Frank Chikane to assess how South Africa can provide food aid to Zimbabweans.