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Sunday, December 4, 2016
British church leaders urge South African countries to ensure fair elections in Zimbabwe
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 In a joint letter, twelve senior British church leaders have called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to "redouble" its efforts to ensure fair elections in Zimbabwe, where people are due to vote on 27 June in a second round to elect a president. Since December 2007, churches and agencies in Britain with partners or projects in Zimbabwe have been meeting at a Roundtable to take counsel on how they might best work together in support of their partners. The joint letter is a fruit of their discussions. Writing to President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia, who is president of SADC, the church leaders express their, "grave concerns about the deteriorating situation" in Zimbabwe, where violence and killings have followed the first round of presidential elections in March. The church leaders tell President Mwanawasa, "All credible reports indicate that this is a deliberate campaign being perpetrated by militia groups aligned to the ruling party against suspected opposition party supporters and those who worked as election observers or election officials on polling day. We are concerned that there have also been attacks perpetrated inside churches." The signatories add, "We respectfully request SADC to redouble its efforts to assist Zimbabweans to end the violence and intimidation and ensure that Zimbabwe abides by the SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections." The full text of the letter is given below. Dear President Mwanawasa As church leaders, we are writing to you in your capacity as the President of SADC. We are also addressing this to SADC diplomatic representatives in the UK and Ireland. We note the various political initiatives of leaders in southern Africa to assist Zimbabweans to solve the political, economic and social crisis in their country thus far. We write to express our grave concerns about the deteriorating situation there. We do so mindful of the statement issued in April by our partners, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches. They state that following the elections in March "Organised violence perpetrated against individuals, families and communities who are accused of campaigning or voting for the 'wrong' political party has been unleashed throughout the country ... Abduction, torture and humiliation [are] commonplace for those in the country accused of voting for the 'wrong' candidate". All credible reports indicate that this is a deliberate campaign being perpetrated by militia groups aligned to the ruling party against suspected opposition party supporters and those who worked as election observers or election officials on polling day. We are concerned that there have also been attacks perpetrated inside churches. Human rights groups have reported that dozens of people have been killed since the elections in March and hundreds injured and thousands displaced. This has significant consequences for the possibility of a free and fair vote in the run off of the presidential election to be held on the 27 June 2008. The Zimbabwe government has instructed humanitarian agencies to suspend all aid operations. This includes feeding programmes for children and support for vulnerable groups such as orphans, disabled people, those with HIV and AIDS and the elderly. We respectfully request SADC to redouble its efforts to assist Zimbabweans to end the violence and intimidation and ensure that Zimbabwe abides by the SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections. This should include ensuring freedom of access by all parties to all areas of the country, equal access to the media, peaceful campaigning - all essential to providing a level electoral playing field. There will be a need for election results to be posted outside polling stations again, for the permits to be granted to domestic election observers to be issued immediately, and for the police and army to be banned from entering polling stations for any reason other than to vote. We also urge you to ensure that the numbers of SADC election observers are scaled up considerably and for them to be present now to monitor the pre-election environment and to stay on until the election results have been released. We take no position on whom Zimbabweans elect to positions of authority, since this is their democratic prerogative. However, our partners insist that Zimbabweans should have the right to make that choice in an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation where the human and democratic rights of all are respected and upheld. We look forward to your response on these matters. Yours sincerely, (Signed) The Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain The Most Revd John Sentamu, Anglican Archbishop of York The Rt Revd Michael Nazir Ali, Anglican Bishop of Rochester The Rt Revd Tom Butler, Anglican Bishop of Southwark The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Anglican Bishop of Croydon The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Anglican Bishop of Woolwich The Rt Revd Richard Cheetham, Anglican Bishop of Kingston The Rt Revd David Lunan, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland The Revd Joel Edwards, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance The Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, President of the Conference of the Methodist Church in Britain The Rt Revd Crispian Hollis, Roman Bishop of Portsmouth The Revd Stephen Orchard, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church Source: CTBI
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