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Leading Zimbabwe Human Rights Activist Abducted

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Michael Stulman (202) 546-7961

Leading Zimbabwe Human Rights Activist Abducted

Africa Action Condemns Escalation of Repression in Zimbabwe

December 5, 2008 (Washington, DC) – Africa Action is concerned about the whereabouts and safety of coalition partner Jestina Mukoko, a prominent civil society leader in Zimbabwe, reportedly missing for over forty-eight hours. As the Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Jestina has been instrumental in keeping the world informed of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Africa Action unequivocally condemns this attempt to silence this heroine of Zimbabwe’s struggle for democracy and demands that she be released immediately and returned to her family unharmed. Jestina’s abduction follows a clear pattern consistent with previous abductions by government agents, particularly the Central Intelligence Organization. Africa Action urges the international community to hold authorities responsible for Jestina’s well being.

The abduction of Jestina Mukoko follows a protest organized by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) that was brutally crushed by police. Over seventy workers were arrested throughout Zimbabwe and many more were severely beaten by anti-riot police, including ZCTU secretary general Wellington Chibhebhe. “These were workers simply exercising their democratic right to protest peacefully. The Zimbabwe government had no reason to violently attack them,” said Gerald LeMelle, Executive Director of Africa Action. “Africa Action extends our solidarity with the struggling workers of Zimbabwe and demands the immediate release of those arrested. Those members of the security forces responsible for these human rights abuses must be held responsible. Zimbabwe’s culture of government impunity cannot be allowed to continue. We hope that our dear sister Jestina is released quickly and unharmed.”

The escalation of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe comes amid an exploding cholera epidemic that has affected nine out of the country’s ten provinces. More than 600 people have died, and over 13,000 are infected. Many residents of the capitol city Harare have gone without running water for months. Amid severe food shortages, more than 2 million people are relying on handouts from donors to survive. Zimbabwe’s humanitarian situation is exacerbated by the lack of an effective government that has persisted since contested presidential elections were held in March. President Robert Mugabe’s administration continues to undermine the proposed unity government by refusing to share power equitably with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

To learn more about the crisis in Zimbabwe or read Africa Action’s report A Dream Deferred – the 2008 Zimbabwe Elections visit http://www.africaaction.org.

ends

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