Human Rights Watch has called for a reform of Zimbabwe's security sector to ensure non-partisan involvement in next month’s elections. A 44-page report released by the organization on Wednesday stated that a reformation would be crucial to achieving “credible, free and fair” presidential and parliamentary elections.
“Zimbabwe’s security forces, notably the military, have, for several years, interfered in the nation’s political and electoral affairs in ways that have adversely affected the ability of Zimbabwean citizens to vote freely,” read the report. Human Rights Watch pointed to the violence surrounding the 2008 elections to further the argument.
“The army played a major role in supporting widespread and systematic abuses that led to the killing of up to 200 people, the beating and torture of 5,000 more, and the displacement of about 36,000 people,” the document said.
“Since then the leadership of the military, police and CIO, all appointed by President Mugabe, remain unchanged, as have their clear, public and vocal support for President Mugabe and [Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front.]”
Elections will take place on July 31 despite concerns raised by Mugabe’s perceived opponent, Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. A new constitution slated to trim presidential power was approved in March and signed by Mugabe.
However, members of the Zimbabwean military, police and internal security agencies have publicly trashed any notion of security reforms with Tsvangirai or opposing party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, a Zimbabwe Defense Forces commander, reportedly told a local state paper, “We have no time to meet sellouts.”
“Clearly Tsvangirai is a psychiatric patient who needs a competent psychiatrist,” he added.
The accounts of Zimbabwean voters were also included in the report. One unnamed MDC supporter disclosed that armed soldiers in uniform had harassed him the day after a referendum on the new constitution.
“When I said I had voted in favor of the draft constitution they then asked me why I was wearing an MDC T-shirt and before I could respond they began to punch and kick me all over my body,” he told the NGO. “They said I must vote for ZANU-PF in the coming elections without fail or they would come back for me. “
Human Rights Watch has urged Southern African Development Community (SADC) to intervene and advocate for the political neutrality of Zimbabwean security forces. The MDC party will advocate the security reform and other agreed upon electoral reforms at the next SADC summit, according to News24.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)