Mr. Speaker, I move that the 17th report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, presented to the House on Wednesday, May 1, be concurred in.
Far from the prying eyes of the media sits Zimbabwe. Earlier this year, after President Robert Mugabe stole the election which took place in Zimbabwe, the world has turned its attention to other areas. However the situation in Zimbabwe is spiraling out of control and more people are facing starvation, torture and murder.
We may have thought when Robert Mugabe stole the presidential election in March of this year that all would be well in that country. That could not be further from the truth. What is happening there today would curl the hair on anyone's neck.
The international community is ignoring a humanitarian tragedy of enormous proportions. President Robert Mugabe is engaging in the systematic rape, murder and torture of innocent civilians as he takes out his anger and his displeasure on those who supported the opposition MDC party. While this is happening the people of Zimbabwe are crying out for help. What do they see? They see nothing. They see people turning their backs on them.
The magnitude of the problem is massive. The population of Zimbabwe is 12 million. Half the population is facing starvation at this present time. Members should imagine what would be happening if six million people in Europe were facing starvation.
Let me tell members what I saw when I was in Zimbabwe last September with the former secretary of state for Africa and Latin America, who I might add did a superb job when we were there. We went there as part of a small group of nations to find out what was happening.
What the government of Zimbabwe tried to do was to ensure that the individuals who were there from the international community would not find out the truth of what was going on. It doctored the witnesses we were supposed to meet to ensure that only those parroting the government line would be heard. What the then secretary of state did was very brave. He changed that process and ensured that we had a fair representation of people from society in Zimbabwe. What we heard was absolutely chilling.
Mr. Mugabe said to the international community that he was following the rule of law, that he had an independent judiciary, that he would stop the land reform process and that he would adhere to a set of criteria that was put together by Nigeria's President Obasanjo. Instead, we heard that the opposite was occurring. Journalists were being imprisoned. Opposition members were being beaten, tortured and murdered. Individuals could not get together to even discuss things. There was a systematic doctoring in preparation for an election that could not be fair.
I went out into the bush and met with a wide variety of farmers from about 30 different farms. Under an acacia tree, away from anyone else, I met with about 14 or 15 black farm workers. They told me that President Robert Mugabe would hire and send young, violent thugs from Harare to go to the farms and ask the black workers, not the white workers, whether they supported the government or not? If there was any indication that there would be no support for the governing party, they would be beaten and murdered, their wives tortured and raped, and their homes fire-bombed. Indeed I saw this and took photographs. There were marks written on their homes for government workers who wanted to claim those homes for themselves.
One farm worker looked into my eyes and said, “Dr. Martin, you see the land right now. If we do not plant in the next two weeks, we will face starvation and we will die. If you don't help us, we will surely die.” He begged us, as part of the international community, to help them save their lives. He also said that what President Mugabe was doing had nothing to do with the truth. He was violently abusing and cowering the rural black population to force them to vote for the ruling party.
He spoke about being forced to go with his family and other black farm workers to government Zanu-PF meetings where they had to chant government slogans. If there were any indication that they were not 100% behind the government they would be taken out back and beaten. Some were murdered. We saw that repeatedly.
Some may feel that this has stopped but it continues. When we got back we presented the evidence. The Commonwealth discredited itself by coming out with a piece of pablum that did nothing to stop Mr. Mugabe. As a result he saw that as a green light to continue his violent ways. Indeed, that is what occurred.
I am deeply disturbed by these events. The response of the international community, including the Commonwealth, the United Nations and our country, was discredited. We did not take a forceful, meaningful approach to this problem. In the face of objective views and analysis by many non-governmental organizations where hundreds of thousands of people's lives hung in the balance, we chose to do almost nothing.
Black leaders out there should be ashamed because the black leaders in Africa sat on their hands and chose to side with a despotic leader who has over the last 20 years demonstrated a flagrant abuse of basic human rights. They chose to stand with him instead of with innocent civilians.
The behaviour of Mr. Mugabe is nothing new. In the early 1980s he and his ruling party brought in his Korean trained Fifth Brigade. It is his personal army made up of North Korean trained soldiers under the command of a person named Perence Shiri. General Shiri, under the direction of Robert Mugabe, took this brigade into Matabeleland North where it murdered 16,000 people. Those are the facts.
Knowing that, the black leaders, President Mbeki, President Dos Santos of Angola as well as the leaders of other black African countries, fell over themselves to support Robert Mugabe knowing full well that the actions that he was engaging in were not only going to hurt the black population in Zimbabwe but indeed were going to hurt their own countries. The reasons for this are many.
Mr. Robert Mugabe has presented the issue in Zimbabwe as one of land reform, of taking land from the whites who own most of the arable land in the country and giving it to the blacks. Does this stand up to objective scrutiny? The answer is an emphatic no.
The government in Zimbabwe had ample opportunity since the early 1980s to bring in land reforms so that land could be taken from some of the whites and given to the rural blacks. It happened that money that was there from England was pocketed by Mr. Mugabe and his cronies.
If we take a look at land redistribution the only people who got land were friends of the ruling party. Suddenly two years ago Mr. Mugabe brought in land reform as an important issue. The government had an option by law to buy any land that came up for sale, and much land came up for sale. I looked at the gazettes myself. It did not choose to take that route. Instead, it would walk in, peg the land, take it and dispense it to whomever. It dispensed it to friends, family, ministers, police officials and a cadre of cronies who received the land. There was no land for the poor impoverished black population in Zimbabwe. That is what has been taking place.
The issue of land reform was a smoke screen. While it was important for the economic uplifting of the rural black population in Zimbabwe, the election that took place had absolutely nothing to do with land reform and everything to do with one man's desire to retain power at any cost.
Mr. Mugabe's desire to retain power not only stems from the issue of land reform and paying off his cronies, it also deals with the dark issue of blood diamonds. We know there has been a conflict in the Congo for the last two years where two million people have been murdered, innocent men, women and children.
The fact that we have been spending so much time on the tragic situation in the Middle East is understandable, but the fact that we have done so at the expense of two million people who have been brutally murdered is a shame on all of us.
Mr. Mugabe wants to retain control because he is actively involved in the blood diamond market. He sent his army into eastern Congo, not to develop peace but to secure diamond mines there. Through, in part, a man by the name of Ari Ben-Menashe , an ex-Israeli Mossad agent who now lives in Montreal and who has acted as an intermediary for him, he takes blood diamonds out of eastern Congo. The diamonds are shared with his military people who are in there now. Those diamonds are then trafficked to the illegal and corrupt diamond markets in Tel Aviv and Antwerp and then sold for money. Those moneys can go into the purchase of illegal weapons from eastern Europe. Sometimes those diamonds are traded for weapons in eastern Europe.
We can be certain that Robert Mugabe and his cronies are actively involved in the blood diamond trade, the same diamonds that many young women wear on their hands when they have the happy moment of getting engaged.
The situation in that part of the world is very murky. I am also ashamed of the appalling behaviour of the United Nations. We may be fascinated and shocked to know that Zimbabwe was asked to sit on the UN Human Rights Commission. What does that do to the credibility of the United Nations when it appoints a country such as Zimbabwe? Just in the first few months of this year, Zimbabwe had 959 documented cases of torture, 145 cases of detention, more than 100 cases of systematic executions and dozens of disappearances and kidnappings. Those are only the ones we have heard about. I am also getting very disturbing reports of innocent people who have been decapitated with shovels and buried in the ground by the thugs of Robert Mugabe.
There is also an active process by the ruling party to teach young thugs from Zimbabwe the art of torture. These people are then being sent out to torture innocent civilians and wreak havoc.
The impact of all this has been to make Zimbabwe a pariah and to destroy a country, which I visited in the early 1990s, that has immense agricultural wealth, physical beauty and resources in terms of its wild animals. It has destroyed Zimbabwe's economy, making it a country with massive unemployment in the order of 75%; a country where six million people are starving to death; and a country, which had an enormous resource of animals of which more than 600,000 them , many some of the rarest in the world, such as the black rhino, have been destroyed.
When I was in Zimbabwe and met with the black farm workers, one interesting thing they said was that they go out and teach their children about their cultural heritage, the game, the spoor and the ecology that surrounds them, but that they could not do that anymore because President Mugabe's thugs were out there shooting, massacring and poaching thousands and thousands of the animals that are their heritage. The black rhino, various forms of buck, and rare cats, including the lion and cheetah, are destroyed in this way.
Mr. Mugabe has been involved in the economic destruction, the rape and murder of his people, and the pillaging of his economy all so he can stay in power. Yet the international community's response is nothing, silence.
The fact is that we have a choice to make. Do we want to stand on the sidelines and give a green light to despotism, murder and the egregious violation of basic human rights or are we going to stand up for the basic rights and protection of innocent civilians? I want to ask that question and put it squarely on the shoulders of black leaders.
Last year in May the African community put together a plan called the New Partnership for Africa's Development, an ambitious plan that calls for, among other things, adherence to the rule of law, the protection of innocent civilians, adherence to a fair and independent judiciary, adherence to good economic policies and an investment in health and education.
Mr. Mugabe and his cronies have violated every tenet of NPAD; every single principle of the document. Why has the leadership of the black African community been silent in its response to this?
This month eight leaders of the most powerful countries in the world will be meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta. There we will have a choice of either standing up and defending the people in Zimbabwe and the people in the surrounding areas or sitting on our hands and coming out with a document full of diplomatic platitudes and short on substance.
Will we implement a plan of action to not only address Zimbabwe but also address the tragedy in the Congo in which 2 million people died, or the tragedy in Sierra Leone where child soldiers were forced at gunpoint to chop the hands and legs off babies, children, women and adults? Will we just stand by and watch 500,000 being displaced from their homes in West Africa into Guinea because one man, Foday Sankoh, who is part of the RUF, wants to control diamond mines?
Will we stand by and allow famine to claim the lives of up to 10 million people in Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa and the surrounding areas? The numbers are hard to grasp because they are so large but those people are no different from any of us. They feel, they hurt, they have families, they have children, they love, they die, they work but they have been abandoned. They have been abandoned because as yet the international community has not taken it upon itself to stand up for the very basic norms of human rights.
Yes, we have done that to some extent in the former Yugoslavia. Yes, we are trying to do that in the tragic situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis. However, while we have done that, we have neglected conflicts of orders of magnitude much larger than what is taking place in other parts of the world.
Why have we done that? At the end of this month the government has to decide whether it will live up to the standing committee's report, a report that I am actually speaking about today, which asks the four simple things.
First, the report asks for the suspension of Zimbabwe, which took place at the Commonwealth, for one year. I ask that we extend that suspension indefinitely until Mr. Mugabe adheres to the rule of law and does the right thing for his people.
Second, the report asks that we ban all foreign travel by Mr. Mugabe and his cronies. Thirty identified people in his cabinet and his cronies have been allowed to travel. They have to travel given that they have been appointed as part of the human rights commission in the United Nations. We must prevent those people from travelling and from going to Europe to buy the lavish gifts that they do off the backs of the people of Zimbabwe.
Third, the report asks that we establish an arms embargo on Zimbabwe. The people are getting arms. When I was down there I saw widespread evidence of children carrying Chinese made automatic weapons. They do not make automatic weapons in Zimbabwe. They probably got the weapons through the trafficking of those illegal diamonds that they pillaged out of the eastern Congo.
Lastly, the report asks that we freeze the personal assets of Mr. Mugabe and those same cronies. There is no use whatsoever in penalizing the people of Zimbabwe. They have suffered enough. The sanctions must be targeted against Mr. Mugabe and those same cronies. If we hurt him personally then we force him to take notice. If we hurt his ego and make him a pariah within his own party and within his country, then we have a chance of changing the situation. Otherwise he is basically impervious to anything else.
We have to get tougher on the situation. If we do not the situation will continue to spiral out of control.
The problems of that country are actually shared by many other nations on that continent. The continent has been ravaged by ruthless kleptocrats who have been interested in pillaging the resources of their countries for their own gain and not their people's gain.
For too long we have bought into a notion that colonialism was the root cause of all evil on the continent. I would submit that the argument does not hold any water any more. I would also submit that the responsibility for action on the most egregious violations of human rights falls squarely on the shoulders of despotic African leaders who have hidden behind the excuse of colonialism only to pillage and rape their own countries.
Do we want to stand up and accept that argument or do we want to stand up and do the right thing? The challenge will be ours in Kananaskis. I know Canada can lead. I know that the people who will be sent there will know what to do. I know the Prime Minister's Sherpa is a very knowledgeable man on this issue. He has guided the Prime Minister and given him many good suggestions.
I beg the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to listen to the suggestions that have come from this House on many occasions, to do the right thing, to defend innocent people and to save lives.