CENTRAL AFRICA: Bishops 'cautiously welcome' Zimbabwe's national unity government

March 6, 2009

The bishops of the Church of the Province of Central Africa have issued a statement in which they "cautiously welcome" the formation of a national unity government in Zimbabwe and urge its political leaders "to put the interests of the people and the development of the nation in the fore."

The statement was made March 1 as the Central Africa bishops gathered for the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Cleophas Lunga as bishop of the Diocese of Matabeleland at the Church of St. Columbus in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

The bishops noted that the national unity government "comes after a long period of political polarization which created immense suffering of the people" and raised their concerns about the continued detention of some political and human rights activists, which, they said, "is not conducive to the spirit of reconciliation and to the promotion of peace and justice. Justice delayed is justice denied."

Representing nine of the 15 Anglican dioceses in Central Africa, the bishops urged the leaders of the Government of National Unity to "think profoundly and reflectively on the past weaknesses such as corruption, patronage, selfishness and regionalism and avoid them by dedicating themselves to the promotion of the rule of law, respect of human rights and good governance."

Anglicans in Zimbabwe have faced ongoing harassment and violence from Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's police force in an attempt to stop them from worshipping. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party continue to hold onto power despite being defeated by the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, in the March 2008 elections. In early February, the Movement for Democratic Change, led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, agreed to join a unity government with Mugabe.

In their March 1 statement, the bishops "pray that the parties involved will faithfully commit themselves to the fulfillment and spirit of the objectives enshrined in the Global Agreement. This demands a high level of transparency and consultation for all parties involved.

"We urge our people to play an active role in the success of the Government of National Unity by fervent prayer and safeguarding the gospel values of love, peace and righteousness," the statement continued. "We further ask our people to genuinely reconcile themselves to one another and above to our God of peace and justice."