LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown branded the Zimbabwean government a “blood-stained regime” on Saturday and urged the international community to tell President Robert Mugabe “enough is enough.”
Brown said food shortages and a cholera epidemic, which has killed hundreds of people, had become an “international rather than a national emergency” that demanded a coordinated response.
“We must stand together to defend human rights and democracy, to say firmly to Mugabe that enough is enough,” he said in a statement.
Brown did not explicitly say Mugabe should step down, but in comments later on television he said the world should speak with one voice “to say that this must be brought to an end.”
“The whole world is angry because they see avoidable deaths — of children, mothers, and families affected by a disease that could have been avoided,” he said. “This is a humanitarian catastrophe. This is a breakdown in civil society. It is a blood-stained regime that is letting down its own people.”
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday that Mugabe’s departure from office was long overdue.
Britain has long had tense ties with Zimbabwe, formerly a British colony. Mugabe, 84, in power since independence in 1980, has accused London of trying to retain influence in the country.
Brown said he had been in close contact with African leaders “to press for stronger action to give the Zimbabwean people the government they deserve.”
He also said he hoped the United Nations Security Council would meet urgently to consider the situation in Zimbabwe.
Brown was backed by a leading Church of England clergyman, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who said: “Mugabe and his corrupt regime must go.”
“The time has come for Mugabe to answer for his crimes against humanity, against his countrymen and women,” Sentamu wrote in Britain’s Observer newspaper, adding the leader should face trial in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
“As a country cries out for justice, we can no longer be inactive to their call. Mugabe and his henchmen must now take their rightful place in The Hague and answer for their actions. The time to remove them from power has come.”
Mugabe and the opposition MDC are deadlocked over the allocation of cabinet seats, the key element in forming a power-sharing government to break the impasse following flawed elections, and the 15-nation Southern African Development Community has been unable to push them into a deal.
Zimbabwe’s economic collapse and the spread of cholera to neighboring countries as Zimbabweans seek medical treatment and food abroad may now force regional leaders to take a stronger stand against the veteran leader.
Brown said the immediate priority was to prevent more deaths by distributing rehydration packs and medical testing kits. He said a “command and control structure” should be put in place in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, to coordinate aid efforts.
Editing by Elizabeth Piper