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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

BBC NEWS | Africa | Mugabe tent rejection 'puzzling'

BBC NEWS | Africa | Mugabe tent rejection 'puzzling' Mugabe tent rejection 'puzzling'

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's rejection of tents for hundreds of thousands of people made homeless this year is puzzling, a top UN envoy says.

Jan Egeland said he could not understand why the UN offer to supply tents was unacceptable when they were fine for people in Europe and the US.

Mr Mugabe's spokesman said Zimbabweans were "not tent people" and they wanted the UN to build permanent homes.

Some 700,000 people lost their jobs or homes in the demolitions, the UN says.

The figure is disputed by the government, which says it carried out Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Rubbish) to reduce crime and overcrowding.

Speaking in Johannesburg after a four-day visit to Zimbabwe, UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs Mr Egeland said this rationale was deeply flawed.

"The eviction campaign seems to me wholly irrational in all of its aspects - you lowered the standard of living rather than increasing it."

'Extremely serious'

Mr Mugabe last week agreed to let the UN provide food aid to some three million people over the next year.

"The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is extremely serious and it is deteriorating," Mr Egeland said.

"If they [tents] are good enough for people in Europe and the United States who have lost their houses, why are they not good enough for Zimbabwe?" he added.

After "frank" talks with Mr Mugabe on Tuesday, Mr Egeland said they had agreed that the international community should do more to meet humanitarian needs in Zimbabwe.

Mr Egeland spent Monday meeting people living in camps and said some of them were living in inadequate conditions.

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