Deportation of top UN official sparks major diplomatic incident
By Tichaona Sibanda
29 October 2009
United Nations human rights expert, Manfred Nowak, was prevented from entering Zimbabwe on Wednesday and was deported, after spending the night at the airport, on the orders of ZANU PF.
Nowak had originally been invited by the government, but at the last minute, while he was in Johannesburg on his way to Harare, the invitation was withdrawn, because everyone was ‘too busy with the arrival of the SADC team’. But Prime Minister Tsvangirai sent a personal invitation.
Clarifying the fact that Mr. Tsvangirai has no power in the government at all, this invitation was completely ignored by authorities. On arrival at Harare airport Nowak was detained by security officials and told he had no clearance to enter the country. While he was being detained, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi was actually at the airport receiving members of the SADC Troika ministerial team, but neither he, nor the SADC officials, did anything.
Officials from the Prime Minister’s office who rushed to the airport to try to help were also refused permission to see him. Eventually he was sent back to Johannesburg. Speaking to journalists in Johannesburg on Thursday, Nowak said he had never been treated by any government in such a rude manner. He also called on the UN to take tough action again Zimbabwe.
‘That is the end of my mission to Zimbabwe. The mission has been a failure and I will not be coming back. This was the chance the government had to talk to the UN,’ said Nowak, who had planned a week-long fact-finding mission to the country.
He added; ‘I’m still concerned by serious and credible allegations of torture, ill-treatment and inhumane prison conditions in the country.
‘I was going to speak to all sides in government and NGO’s to assist the government to improve the situation with international donors,’ he said.
Speaking to the BBC Nowak said: ‘This is a major incident because you can’t on the one hand invite a special rapporteur to meet the prime minister and on the other hand somebody gives an order to the immigration police not to let me in.’
Tiseke Kasambala, a Human Rights Watch senior researcher for the organization’s African division told us Nowak’s deportation highlighted the flaws in the GPA. She said the move indicated a slide back into anarchy in the country.
‘It shows us the MDC is not on an equal footing with ZANU PF. Mugabe still controls the security and all powerful state organs that undermine Tsvangirai all the way,’ Kasambala said.