ENGLAND: Rowan Williams speaks on failed bid to help starving Zimbabweans

May 6, 2007

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has spoken publicly about his failed attempts to use Anglican community resources in southern Africa to send food to starving Zimbabweans.


At a May 1 meeting held at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London, Williams was asked why Anglican church funds were not used to fill trucks with food and send them across Beit Bridge from South Africa to Bulawayo in southern Zimbabwe where people are starving.

Williams surprised those attending the meeting by saying that four years ago he held discussions with Southern Africa Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town about the best approach to help Zimbabwe.

A year ago, Williams again held talks with central and southern African Anglicans -- a meeting that did not include Bishop Nolbert Kunonga of Harare, a staunch ally of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe. Again, he asked what sort of intervention from outside could be useful.

"The message I had from them was any intervention under the name of the Archbishop of Canterbury would instantly be branded in Zimbabwe as the British government by another name," Williams said.

Williams met with Kunonga in March "to ask him whether he would contemplate not only rediscovering his soul, so to speak, in relation to the Mugabe government, but whether he would contemplate an arrangement which we would willingly broker with the World Food Programme administered through the Anglican church in Zimbabwe. The answer was 'No'!"

A report published in The Zimbabwean newspaper on May 3 said that Godfrey Tawonezri, the bishop of Masvingo in south-east Zimbabwe, had denied he signed a message published under the auspices of the Central African Community two weeks earlier.

He said that a message which gave the world the impression that the Anglican community was behind Mugabe because it attacked sanctions against his key supporters implying they damaged ordinary people, had been prepared at the end of a synod held in Harare.

"I have not seen the full statement," said Tawonezri. "No copy was sent to me. I did not sign the statement and I know that most bishops did not sign because the statement was written after the bishops left Harare."

Bishop Nick Baines of Croydon in England told Ecumenical News International that most Anglicans were keen to see the churches remain united in Central Africa. "But we do have a problem with Bishop Nolbert Kunonga," he said.

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