Mugabe suspends all aid work
David Blair in London and Christopher Munnion in Johannesburg, smh
June 7, 2008
Other related coverage
British, US diplomats detained in Zimbabwe
Mugabe threatens to expel US ambassador
Mugabe at food summit 'obscene'
ZIMBABWE'S Government has ordered all humanitarian aid groups to suspend their operations in the deeply impoverished nation, a prohibition that relief agencies estimate will deprive 2 million people of food aid and other basic assistance.
The Government had already barred CARE, one of the world's biggest aid groups, from providing humanitarian aid in the country, accusing it of siding with the political opposition ahead of a presidential run-off this month.
The ban came as Zimbabwe's ambassador was summoned to the British Foreign Office in London after a mob loyal to the President, Robert Mugabe, surrounded a group of British and American diplomats, hurling abuse and threatening to set their cars ablaze.
The gang massed around four British and five American diplomats when their three vehicles were stopped at gunpoint at a police roadblock north of Harare. A black Zimbabwean driver was severely assaulted, car tyres were slashed and windows broken.
James McGee, the US ambassador to Harare, said the gang had "threatened to burn the vehicles with my people inside unless they accompanied police to a nearby police station".
David Miliband, Britain's Foreign Secretary, said all the diplomats eventually returned safely to Harare. Denouncing the incident as "intimidation", Mr Miliband said it betrayed the scale of violence in Zimbabwe.
"It gives us a window into the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans because this sort of intimidation is something that's suffered daily, especially by those who are working with opposition groups," said Mr Miliband.
The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said the "outrageous behaviour in the treatment of diplomats" had been reported to the United Nations Security Council.
The incident began when the diplomats paid a joint visit to the town of Bindura, north of Harare.
As they left, Mugabe supporters ordered the envoys to drive to the police station. The convoy was pursued until it was halted by armed police at a roadblock.
Mr McGee blamed Mr Mugabe, saying the orders had "come directly from the top". The envoy added: "Zimbabwe is now a lawless country … the Government is trying to intimidate diplomats from travelling to the countryside to witness the violence they are perpetrating against their own citizens."
The New York Times; Telegraph, London