Mon, Aug 23, 2004 - Page 6 News List

New archbishop uses inauguration to blast Mugabe

AP , HARARE, ZIMBABWE

The new Roman Catholic Archbishop of Harare publicly criticized the Zimbabwean government's poor human rights record Saturday, drawing a scathing attack from President Robert Mugabe.

Archbishop Robert Ndlovu told a crowd of some 6,000 people, including Mugabe, who turned out for his inauguration that free expression, association and assembly were rights the church supported.

Zimbabwe has been wracked by political violence and economic turmoil in recent years as Mugabe's government has seized thousands of white-owned farms for redistribution to blacks. Seeking to crack down on dissent, the government has arrested opposition leaders, trade unionists and independent journalists.

"The role of a bishop and of the church in general is to stand up for human dignity, and from human dignity flow human rights," said Ndlovu, who was formerly the Bishop of Hwange, a city in northwestern Zimbabwe where up to 20,000 suspected opposition supporters were killed by Mugabe's security forces in the 1980s.

After Ndlovu finished speaking, Mugabe made an impromptu speech, attacking unnamed religious leaders who "joined hands with erstwhile colonial masters to peddle lies about the state of affairs and demonize Zimbabwe."

Mugabe often accuses critics of being league with Zimbabwe's former colonizer, Britain, and other Western nations.

Before leaving, Mugabe commended the Catholic church for giving him his early education as a mission teacher and took communion with his wife.

Ndlovu's appointment last month drew sharp criticism from Zimbabwe's state-controlled media, which said that one of several known pro-Mugabe clerics from Mugabe's majority Shona tribe should have been made Harare archbishop. Ndlovu is from the minority Ndebele tribe.

Friday, Mugabe's government published plans for new restrictive legislation banning foreign human rights group and making all private relief work subject to stringent state controls.

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