Anglican leaders warn of "national disintegration" in Zimbabwe

Top Anglican Church leaders warned Thursday that Zimbabwe was on the "brink of national disintegration" that could spark violence on the scale seen in fellow African states Kenya and Rwanda, reported the dpa.

In a joint statement, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu called for an immediate arms embargo against the regime of Robert Mugabe and demanded action by the international community to end the post-election crisis.

In what was seen as a thinly veiled criticism of the South African government of President Thabo Mbeki, the two primates made a reference to "lacklustre efforts" to resolve the situation.

British churches would join an international day of prayer for the country this Sunday, they said.

The archbishops said the electoral process in Zimbabwe was now "without credibility" because of vote-rigging, violence and delay.

"Continuing political violence and drift could unleash spiralling communal violence, as has been seen elsewhere in the continent where early warning systems or the international community failed to act in time," Williams and Sentamu said.

"Faithful men, women and young people who seek better governance in either political or church affairs continue to be beaten, intimidated or oppressed ... Anglicans cannot worship in their Cathedral in Harare," the statement said.

"We commend the efforts of governments and agencies actively seeking to end the crisis and pray (for) those whose efforts have seemed lacklustre to renew their commitment as fellow Christians, Africans and members of the human family and international community."

The people of Zimbabwe were now left even more vulnerable to conflict, "heaped upon poverty and the threat of national disintegration."

"Ecumenically, and as part of a broad based coalition, we must work to build a civil society movement that both creates political will and gives voice to those who demand an end to the mayhem that grows out of injustice, poverty, exclusion and violence."

Ugandan-born Sentamu made headlines last year when he cut up his dog collar live on television in a visual protest against the way, he said, Mugabe had "taken people's identity" and "cut it to pieces."

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