By Staff Reporter
FORMER President Robert Mugabe ouster by the military can be an opportunity for Zimbabwe to break from the past culture of violent elections, Amnesty International has said.
In brief published Tuesday the global rights group said past Zimbabwe elections under Mugabe’s rule were marred by gross human rights abuses, including killings and forced disappearances.
The briefing offers seven human rights recommendations for candidates and political parties contesting the July 30 elections.
“As the country holds its first elections without former president Robert Mugabe on the ballot paper, it is time for Zimbabwe to break with decades of gross human rights violations,” said Muleya Mwananyanda.
“Under Mugabe’s rule, the election period was typically marred by killings, disappearances and arrests.
“With Mugabe gone, there is a real opportunity for a fresh start for Zimbabwe and a chance to break with history and ensure that human rights are fully respected in the context of the elections and beyond.”
The briefing also highlights other human rights issues such as unresolved historic forced evictions such as Operation Murambatsvina which displaced more than 700,000 people in 2005, and the need for politicians to commit to prioritizing women and girls’ health rights.
“Zimbabwe can only become a thriving country when human rights and the rule of law are the key guiding principles of society.
“Anything short of this will only short-change the country of its full potential,” Mwananyanda said.
He said all politicians participating in the July 30 vote must publicly commit to addressing impunity for human rights violations and put human rights first.
More than 200 people were reportedly killed in the 2008 elections when Mugabe was defeated in the first round by the late former MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who succumbed to colon cancer in February this year.
Mugabe ruled the country with an iron fist for almost four decades and dealt ruthlessly with opposition leaders and supporters, often accused of using the state security apparatus to suppress decent.
Several political opponents, human rights defenders and activists disappeared under the Mugabe regime.
The veteran leader was removed from power by the military in an operation which saw his erstwhile Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa taking over after a few days in self-exiled following his axing by Mugabe.