Monday, July 04, 2005

The U.N. puckers up for another tyrant

If an article from Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper is to be believed (don't laugh, read on), the U.N. has once again chosen the low road, this time by helping Robert Mugabe whitewash the demolition and burning of the homes of 300,000 of Zimbabwe's citizens. After a visit from a U.N. envoy last week, the Herald had this to report:
GOVERNMENT has shown seriousness and a clear vision on its clean-up by allocating stands to people affected by Operation Murambatsvina and those on the housing waiting list, United Nations special envoy Mrs Anna Kajumalo Tibaijuka has said.

Ms. Anna Tibaijuka

Ms. Tibaijuka is the executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (which goes by the puzzling non-acronym UN-HABITAT). UN-HABITAT's mandate is "to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all."

Adequate shelter for all?

Some media outlets have reported that a U.N. spokesperson has said her remarks were taken out of context.
But the United Nations said its envoy's comments were reported out of context. "Her listening to the statements made by the ministers should in no way be seen as her endorsing the government's policy," Dujarric said. "UN Habitat, the agency that she heads ..., has clearly stated that forced eviction is one of the main barriers to the significant improvement of slum dwellers."

The Herald did not, however, say that she endorsed the destruction of homes that has left more than a quarter of a million people homeless. It said she praised the government's plan to build new homes for them elsewhere.
"The allocation of stands for housing is a reflection of the seriousness of Government. Operation Garikai is good. The vision is clear," she said while making her contribution during a meeting with the Ministerial Taskforce on Reconstruction held in the capital yesterday.
"I believe this is the beginning of the beginning. UN-Habitat is looking forward to working with you," said the UN envoy.

This quote sounds plausible, and it's undeniable that such praise of the "relocation" plan sounds like a tacit endorsement of the "home demolition" plan. If she did say this, she would only be sticking to the U.N. tradition of blindly accentuating the positive to avoid rubbing tyrants the wrong way. The U.N. apparently informed some media today that mindless relativism remains their driving philosophy: "The aim is to listen to as many people as possible with a view to understanding the situation without endorsing or discrediting their point of view." Tibaijuka's office, meanwhile, has issued no press release criticizing the forcible relocation, nor has it officially objected to the Herald's version of her statements. I think that speaks for itself.


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