Human Rights Commissioner: Africa Needs to Address Zimbabwe | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 26.06.2008
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Human Rights Commissioner: Africa Needs to Address Zimbabwe

Germany's Human Rights Commissioner Guenter Nooke called the political crisis in Zimbabwe a tragedy. In a DW-WORLD interview, he said the regional southern African body (SADC) needs to take up the issue urgently.

Zimbabweans and South Africans hold signs protesting against election-related violence.

Zimbabweans and South Africans demonstrate against election-related violence

On the eve of the controversial election in Zimbabwe, German Human Rights Commissioner Guenter Nooke described the political crisis in Zimbabwe as a decades' old "tragedy" which the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region needs to deal with urgently.

"The Zimbabwean crisis has been a tragedy for decades. It is up to the southern Africa region to save the people of Zimbabwe and really take up the issue as a matter of urgency," Nooke told DW-WORLD in a telephone interview from Berlin.

The German politician said it was the responsibility of political leaders in Zimbabwe and the southern African region to find a solution to the crisis which has since claimed lives of more than a dozen supporters for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and displaced thousands.

"It is the responsibility of Zimbabwean and SADC leaders to find solutions to this difficult and terrible situation today. I understand it when African leaders say they don't want Europeans or those from the western world to speak on African issues but they have to take the responsibility and speak emphatically on issues," said Nooke.

Military intervention not an option

The German added that he disagrees sharply with those who are advocating military intervention in Zimbabwe as a way of solving the crisis. Dialogue should be exhausted before people can start talking about such moves, he insisted.

"Military intervention should not be an option, but it is important for the international community to speak with one voice whether it's the European Union, SADC or African Union. Military intervention will not be a good move. People should speak whether with silent diplomacy or shouting, but a solution should come through speaking," he said.

Elections should be postponed

Morgan Tsvangirai adresses journalists in Harare

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition party in Zimbabwe at a press conference in Harare

Despite announcements by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai that he will not participate in elections scheduled for June 27, the Zimbabwe government was reported to have been forging ahead with plans to hold the run-off presidential poll, which would leave Mugabe as the sole candidate.

Echoing the reactions of the international community and the SADC, Guenter Nooke said Zimbabwean authorities should have called off the elections.

"It would have been better if elections had been stopped," Nooke said.

EU voices concern over violence

On June 25 the EU backed an African call to postpone the presidential run-off vote in Zimbabwe saying the results of the poll would not reflect the will of the people. The EU presidency issued a statement expressing concern about violence that has dogged campaigning ahead of the election.

"Harassment of the opposition and the campaign of violence in the country have led to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's decision to withdraw from the second round of the presidential elections," the statement said.

Mugabe greets his supporters in Zimbabwe

Despite criticism, Mugabe continues to push through the elections.

"These circumstances cannot credibly lead to a result that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people. Therefore the EU presidency expresses its full support to the SADC call for the postponement of the second round of the elections."

The statement also called for an immediate halt to the violence and the release of political prisoners. The opposition MDC party says about 2,000 of its supporters are behind bars.

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