Wednesday, June 11, 2008
A report published in today's New York Times states that Zimbabwean authorities have confiscated a truck loaded with 20 tons of food aid for poor school children and ordered that the food be handed out to supporters of President Robert Mugabe instead.
The seizure was first revealed by U.S. Ambassador James D. McGee in an interview in which he stated, "This government will stop at nothing, even starving the most defenseless people in the country — young children — to realize their political ambitions."
As we blogged on June 5 ("Zimbabwe Blocks Charitable Aid") and June 6 ("More on Zimbabwe's Blockade of Charitable Aid"), last week the government ordered all humanitarian aid groups to suspend their operations, charging that some of them were giving out food as bribes to win votes for opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, in the upcoming June 27 presidential runoff election against President Mugabe.
However, according to the Times article,
political analysts, aid workers and human rights groups contend that it is, in fact, Zimbabwe's governing party that has ruthlessly used food to reward supporters and punish opponents in a country where agricultural production has collapsed over the past decade and millions of people would go hungry each year without emergency aid.
The seizure of the truck laden with food assistance occurred last Friday (June 6) in an area called Bambazonke near the town of Mutare in eastern Zimbabwe. According to the Times,
The truck was hired by one of three nongovernmental organizations — CARE, Catholic Relief Services and World Vision — that form a consortium and contract with the United States Agency for International Development to distribute food aid in Zimbabwe. Its cargo of wheat, beans and vegetable oil was intended for 26 primary schools, American officials said, part of a program that provides hungry children with one solid meal a day.
For the entire article, see "American Aid Is Seized in Zimbabwe" in the June 12, 2008, New York Times.