Zimbabwe: Amnesty accuses government of using food for political gain

Amnesty International today called on the government of Zimbabwe to immediately lift its ban on field operations by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and accused the government of using food for political ends.

Amnesty International said:

“The suspension of field operations by all NGOs on the order of the Zimbabwean government is likely to increase food insecurity in Zimbabwe and expose millions of people to hunger.

“The suspension of NGO operations is yet another attempt by the government to manipulate food distribution for political ends.

“Suspension of humanitarian operations by NGOs ensures that the government has a monopoly over food distribution through the state-controlled Grain Marketing Board (GMB) during the pre-election period.”

Since 2000, Amnesty International has documented how GMB food has been used as a political tool against perceived government opponents.

Amnesty International said that the restrictions will not only have a detrimental effect on food security in Zimbabwe, but also serve as a means for the government to prevent aid workers from witnessing the sharply increased levels of state-sponsored political violence taking place in the country since presidential and parliamentary elections were held on 29 March.

Amnesty added:

“By closing off the space for NGOs in Zimbabwe, the government is attempting to hide the worst of the human rights violations taking place in the country.

“The Zimbabwean authorities must ensure that food is distributed to all on the basis of need - irrespective of real or perceived political affiliation.

“Humanitarian organisations and other NGOs should be allowed go about their legitimate work without interference. By deliberately blocking life-sustaining aid, the government of Zimbabwe may be violating the right of its citizens to life, food, and health.”

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