Archbishop calls for Mugabe's trial on crimes against humanity

The Archbishop of York has joined the growing chorus of calls for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to be removed from power as a cholera epidemic becomes the latest crisis to grip his stricken country.

Dr John Sentamu said that Mr Mugabe should be brought to stand trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

"The time has come for Mugabe to answer for his crimes against humanity, against his countrymen and women and for justice to be done," he said.

"The winds of change that once brought hope to Zimbabwe and its neighbours have become a hurricane of destruction with the outbreak of cholera, destitution, starvation and systemic abuse of power by the state.

"As a country cries out for justice, we can no longer be inactive to their call," the Archbishop wrote in The Observer. "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."

Gordon Brown said that it was time for the international community to tell Mr Mugabe "enough is enough".

His words echoed similar calls in recent days by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Ugandan-born Dr Sentamu urged today's African leaders to follow the example of their predecessors who overthrew the infamous Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

"Where are the African governments or leaders with the courage of Julius Nyerere, the former President of Tanzania, who ousted Idi Amin after recognising that his neighbour had become a tyrant and who marched an army into Uganda to bring an end to the killing fields?" he said.

"In Uganda, we were beaten, tortured, abused and hundreds were murdered, but never did we starve to death or see the level of suffering which is to be found in today's Zimbabwe," said the Archbishop.

International aid agencies welcomed growing pressure from world leaders on the Zimbabwean president but said the country's cholera-stricken people "do not have time to wait for a political solution".

The World Health Organisation said close to 14,000 cases of the disease cholera have been reported in the country and 589 people have already died.

But the situation could be even more grave, said a spokesman for the WHO Health Action in Crises group.

"We know that the reporting system in the country has some weaknesses. There is a likelihood that there could be some gaps," said Paul Garwood.

Charities working in the country warn that many more could die as the disease gallops through a population weakened by hunger in a region where sanitation and health services have all but collapsed. International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said it was time for Africa to "stand up and be counted".

In a statement, he said: "It has been the role of the Church down the ages to be a prophetic voice.

"Now is the time for Africa to stand up and be counted. The old bonds of the liberation struggle must give way to the common bond of humanity.

"Zimbabwe's rouge government bears full responsibility for this growing humanitarian disaster.

"Five million people – two thirds of the population – will require food aid by the end of this month.

"Health and education systems have broken down and cholera is now spreading within and beyond Zimbabwe's borders.

"While Britain is and will continue to give humanitarian aid, this response is not a sustainable solution.

"The people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough."