Christian Aid has called for peace and an end to violence in Zimbabwe as post-electoral violence remains a critical concern in Harare.
Clashes arose between supporters of opposition party, MDC Alliance, and military forces after parliamentary results gave victory to the ruling Zanu-PF party, formerly led by Robert Mugabe. These resulted in three people being shot dead by the army and a number of people beaten and harassed.
The opposition believes that Zanu-PF has rigged the election, while the results of the presidential election have not yet been announced. European Union observers had already expressed doubts over the conduct of the presidential and parliamentary vote citing that an ‘un-level playing field, intimidation of voters and lack of trust in the process undermined the pre-election environment’.
Christian Aid’s Country Manager for Zimbabwe, Nicholas Shamano, said: “Political or any other differences should be resolved through engagement and dialogue. Human life remains sacrosanct. Killing defenceless civilians for expressing an opinion is the worst a government can do.
“The government and political leaders must call on every stakeholder to exercise restraint at this moment. We cannot afford to lose any more lives or limbs. And the electoral process must be expedited in a manner that does not raise further suspicions and emotions.”
Grainne Kilcullen, Governance and Human Rights Advisor at Christian Aid, said: “Christian Aid is calling for peace and an immediate end to violence on the streets of Harare. We are urging Zimbabwe’s armed forces to respect international human rights law and the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, as citizens exercise their right to protest and demand clear and transparent election results.
“We call for an investigation into the conduct of the army and for those responsible to be held accountable. We also urge Zimbabwe’s political representatives to show leadership at this critical time by calling for calm and a cessation of violent clashes, before more bloodshed takes place.
"These elections are a historic opportunity for Zimbabwe to turn a new corner towards a political system that respects the democratic process, offers hope to its citizens and promotes economic growth to pull the country out poverty. Yet, although these elections are the first in the post-Mugabe era, there have been widespread concerns about the electoral process and vote rigging.
"We are strongly urging all sides to place the future of Zimbabwe and a respect for democracy at the centre of their actions, as the credibility of this election hangs in the balance. It is critical that election results are released as soon as possible with a transparent and accountable process to avoid any further escalations of tensions.”
Christian Aid has been working with partner organisations in Zimbabwe to prepare communities to minimise violence and promote peace during and after the elections. This work includes support to the signing of peace pacts among youth leaders of political parties at the national and local levels, as well as engagement with the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission to restore trust, ensure peace and discharge its duties in accordance with the constitution.
Christian Aid is also working to end patriarchal gender norms in Zimbabwe, where only four of 23 candidates vying to become president are female. Conservative social norms mean that women entering politics in Zimbabwe are often subject to abuse.
“With the first election without Robert Mugabe on the ballot paper in decades, people in Zimbabwe cast their vote with a renewed feeling of hope for a brighter and more economically-stable future,” said Grainne Kilcullen. “We continue to share the hope held in many Zimbabwean’s hearts that democracy will prevail, peace can triumph, and that daily life for many Zimbabweans can start to improve.”
**Grainne Kilcullen, Governance and Human Rights Advisor, is available for comment**
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