WASHINGTON – Unites States Senators Chris Coons and Cory Booker have urged Zimbabwean officials to respect the rights of protesters and restore access to social media, internet and telephone services following a nationwide protests staged by local people over the country’s economic crisis.
In a statement, Coons (Democrat, Delaware) and Booker (Democrat, New Jersey) said the current situation in the country is worrying as state security agents have launched a crackdown on protesters amid reports of several deaths, arrests and detentions.
The two, who are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “We are deeply troubled by reports of deaths, widespread arrests, beatings, and harassment of protestors by security forces of the Government of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean people have the constitutional right to protest peacefully and express themselves regarding developments in their country.
“Government officials and security forces must respond with professionalism and respect for human rights and the rule of law. We also call on the Government of Zimbabwe to rescind the directive ordering communication service providers to cut or restrict access to social media, internet, and telephone services. Such abrogations of constitutional and basic legal rights are not what the people of Zimbabwe were promised under President Mnangagwa.”
Coons and Booker said Zimbabwean authorities should urgently address people’s concerns. “… Instead, the government should work to meet the basic economic and social needs of its people. We strongly urge the Zimbabwean authorities to resolve the current situation through dialogue and non-violent, fully legal means, and for protesters to exercise their constitutional rights peacefully. Under no circumstances should the Zimbabwean government disregard the constitutional rights of its citizens, engage in the illegal suppression of expression and assembly, or employ the disproportionate use of force or extralegal violence to respond to the current situation.”
Coons and Booker are among several other senators who were in Zimbabwe before the country held its elections last July won by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling Zanu PF party.
The poll results were challenged by the Movement for Democratic Change led by Nelson Chamisa, who lost the case in the Constitutional Court which cited lack of evidence in nullifying the election outcome.
The country was facing serious economic problems before the harmonized elections and worsened soon after Mnangagwa was declared winner by Priscilla Chigumba’s Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
Mnangagwa recently announced fuel price increases of up to 150% in a nation with an unemployment rate of over 80%.