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AJWS Decries Mugabe's Fraudulent Zimbabwe Election

AJWS Expresses Solidarity With The People Of Zimbabwe, Decries Fraudulent Election And Fears For Public Well-being

New York, NY; July 1, 2008 – Ruth W. Messinger and James Meier, respectively president and chairman of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), today issued a statement expressing solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and calling on the government to grant its citizens fair and peaceful elections and the right to live without daily fear of violence. AJWS's statement follows a presidential run-off election marred by attacks on civilians and physical intimidation by the ruling party.

For more than 20 years, AJWS has supported grassroots projects promoting civil society and human rights in the developing world, including Zimbabwe where AJWS has been partnering with community development organizations for the past 10 years. The political turmoil in Zimbabwe comes amidst a period of historic inflation and unemployment and also at a time when HIV/AIDS is taking a tremendous toll on communities throughout the country.

In the days leading up to the run-off election between challenger Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai was repeatedly detained by government authorities; one of his key advisors was arrested on treason charges; and there were widespread reports that opposition supporters and their families, including young children, were targeted for acts of violence and murder by agents acting on behalf of Mugabe. Fearing for his personal safety, Tsvangirai ultimately withdrew and sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy.

The run-off election was called a 'sham' by President George W. Bush. The African Union said the election 'fell short' of that body's standards and the United Nations Deputy Secretary General told the New York Times that the growing humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe represents the 'single greatest challenge to regional stability' and that the election sets a 'dangerous precedent'.

In their joint statement, Messinger, who is currently in South Africa, and Meier said the following:

'We stand by the citizens of Zimbabwe who were recently denied the basic human right of being able to select a leader through a fair, peaceful and democratic process. We are appalled by the reports of violence and intimidation directed at Zimbabweans who are suspected to be supporters of the opposition. Our connection to the Zimbabwean people is deep and we are very fearful for what Zimbabwe's future may hold.

'This is clearly a nation in crisis. Unemployment has reached 80%; inflation is at more that 160,000%; and nearly 2 million people in Zimbabwe suffer from AIDS. Increased hunger, due to skyrocketing food prices and political turmoil, has led to a broader surge in violence that has reportedly displaced more than 10,000 children. In neighboring South Africa, we are seeing what had been a stream of refugees from Zimbabwe swell to a river in recent weeks.

'Zimbabwe, once called the 'breadbasket of Africa', is on the verge of becoming the world's next humanitarian catastrophe.'

ENDS

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