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Zimbabwe bishops want youth militia disbanded

The youth of Zimbabwe are being sacrificed to keep President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party in power, according a group of South African and Zimbabwean bishops.

The Tablet reports that up to 50,000 young people have been trained by the regime in the use of weapons and torture and ordered to use violence against supporters of the opposition party, according to a new report by the Solidarity Peace Trust. The ecumenical trust, formed four months ago, comprises four bishops from Zimbabwe and two from South Africa.

The report was compiled from state-controlled and independent media reports, training material from youth militia camps, interviews with those tortured by the militia and the youth militia themselves. It covers the period from October 2000 to last month.

At a media conference in Johannesburg earlier this month, Trust chair Zimbabwean Archbishop Pius Ncube, and South African Bishop Kevin Dowling described the militia as "a paramilitary training program for Zimbabwe's youth with the clear aim of inculcating blatantly anti-democratic, racist and xenophobic attitudes".

The church leaders appealed for the disbanding of the militia and its training camps. In addition they would like to see the surrender of weapons, investigation of crimes committed, and a program of rehabilitation and reintegration into society. They urged that disbanding should be a condition for Zimbabwe to be readmitted into the Commonwealth after its suspension last year.

Archbishop Ncube noted that the young people under 18 can be classed as child soldiers. "This is a crime against humanity and the perpetrators must be charged by the international courts", he said.

The Tablet

Zimbabwe church leaders meet Mugabe (29/7/03)
Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference
Zimbabwe police detain outspoken Archbishop before peace service (10/6/03)
Cardinal: A time to pray for Zimbabwe (Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales)
Zimbabwe's Prelate of Courage (Washington Dispatch)
Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference

17 Sep 2003