Part of the series on
Desmond Tutu
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The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu
Early Life
Tutu's role during apartheid
Tutu's role since apartheid
Role in South Africa
Chairman of the Elders
Role in the Third World
United Nations Role
Political Views
Other Humanitarian Initiatives
Academic role
One Young World
Media/film appearances
Article discussion

Role in the Third World

Tutu has focused on drawing awareness to issues such as poverty, AIDS and non-democratic governments in the Third World. In particular he has focused on issues in Zimbabwe and Palestine. Tutu also led The Elders' first mission to travel to Sudan in September-October 2007 to foster peace in the Darfur crisis. "Our hope is that we can keep Darfur in the spotlight and spur on governments to help keep peace in the region," said Tutu.[1]

Tutu has also been vocal in his condemnation of Chinese crackdowns on Tibetan activists. Tutu spoke at a candle-lit vigil on the eve of the San Francisco relay. Tutu does not support a full boycott of the Olympic Games, but he has called on the heads of States worldwide to not attend the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.[2]

"For God's sake, for the sake of our children, for the sake of their children, for the sake of the beautiful people of Tibet - don't go. Tell your counterparts in Beijing you wanted to come but looked at your schedule and realised you have something else to do."[3]


Tutu has been vocal in his criticism of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe as well as the South African government's policy of quiet diplomacy towards Zimbabwe. In 2007 he said the "quiet diplomacy" pursued by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) had "not worked at all" and he called on Britain and the West to pressure SADC, including South Africa, which was chairing talks between President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, to set firm deadlines for action, with consequences if they were not met.[4] Tutu has often criticized Robert Mugabe in the past and he once described the autocratic leader as "a cartoon figure of an archetypical African dictator". In 2008, he called for the international community to intervene in Zimbabwe - by force if necessary.[5] Mugabe, on the other hand, has called Tutu an "angry, evil and embittered little bishop".[6]

We Africans should hang our heads in shame. How can what is happening in Zimbabwe elicit hardly a word of concern let alone condemnation from us leaders of Africa? After the horrible things done to hapless people in Harare, has come the recent crackdown on members of the opposition ... what more has to happen before we who are leaders, religious and political, of our mother Africa are moved to cry out "Enough is enough?"[7]

He has often stated that all leaders in Africa should condemn Zimbabwe: "What an awful blot on our copy book. Do we really care about human rights, do we care that people of flesh and blood, fellow Africans, are being treated like rubbish, almost worse than they were ever treated by rabid racists?" After the Zimbabwean presidential elections in April 2008, Tutu expressed his hope that Mugabe would step down after it was initially reported that Mugabe had lost the elections. Tutu reiterated his support of the democratic process and hoped that Mugabe would adhere to the voice of the people:

That is democracy. Democracy is, you change government when people decide. I mean when your time is over, your time is over. We hope the transition will be a peaceful one, relatively peaceful, and that Mr Mugabe will step down with dignity, gracefully.[8]

Tutu called Mugabe "someone we were very proud of", as he "did a fantastic job, and it’s such a great shame, because he had a wonderful legacy. If he had stepped down ten or so years ago he would be held in very, very high regard. And I still want to say we must honour him for the things that he did do, and just say what a shame."[8]

Tutu stated that he feared that riots would break out in Zimbabwe if the election results were ignored. He proposed that a peace-keeping force should be sent to the region to ensure stability.

Anything that would save the possibilities of bloodshed, of conflict, I am quite willing to support. The people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough, and we don’t...want any more possibilities of bloodshed. In a fraught situation such as we have had in Zimbabwe, anything that is helping towards a move, a transition, from the repression to the possibilities of democracy and freedom, oh, for goodness sake, please let us accept that.[8]

Solomon Islands

In 2009, Tutu assisted in the establishing of the Solomon Islands' Truth and Reconciliation Commission, modelled after the South African body of the same name.[9][10] He spoke at its official launch in Honiara on April 29, emphasising the need for forgiveness in order to build lasting peace.[11]

  1. "Tutu denounces rights abuses". News24. 10 December 2007.,,2-11_2236256,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  2. "Raw Video: Desmond Tutu On SF Torch Relay". CBS. 8 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  3. "San Francisco set for torch relay". BBC. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-09. 
  4. "Zimbabwe needs your help, Tutu tells Brown". Daily Telegraph. 19 September 2007. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  5. "Tutu urges Zimbabwe intervention". BBC. 29 June 2008. 
  6. John Allen (10 October 2007). "Working with a rabble-rouser". London: Times Online. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  7. "Desmond Tutu Quotes". South African History Online. 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "‘Mugabe must step down with dignity’". The Times. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  9. "Solomon Islands gets Desmond Tutu truth help", The Australian, April 29, 2009
  10. "Archbishop Tutu to Visit Solomon Islands", Solomon Times, February 4, 2009
  11. "Solomons Truth and Reconciliation Commission launched", Radio New Zealand International, April 29, 2009

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