'Mugabe using violence to hijack vote'
- From: Zvakanaka <lalapansi@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2008 07:05:33 +0200
'Mugabe using violence to hijack vote'
by Cuthbert Nzou Friday 20 June 2008
HARARE - A leading international human rights group on Thursday accused
President Robert Mugabe of trying to "hijack" Zimbabwe's presidential
run-off election next week through a relentless campaign of violence and
arrests against opposition and civic society leaders.
The Human Rights Watch said in statement that because of the state's
crackdown against the opposition the June 27 vote could not be free and
fair, echoing the views of a key group of southern African foreign ministers
who earlier on Thursday said political violence had jeopardised the
credibility of the run-off election.
"First the government went after opposition members, now they're arresting
the leaders," said Georgette Gagnon, the New York-based Human Rights Watch's
Africa director. "This is another obvious attempt by Mugabe to hijack the
election. Where will this escalation of illegality stop?" she said.
Mugabe enters the run-off poll as underdog after losing the March 29 first
round vote to opposition MDC party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and only
managing to hold onto his job because Tsvangirai failed to secure the margin
required to takeover power.
Political violence and gross human rights abuses have characterised
campaigning for the run-off poll, while police have arrested several MDC
leaders including Tsvangirai and party secretary general Tendai Biti in what
the opposition has said was an attempt by the government to derail its drive
to end Mugabe's decades-long rule.
Tsvangirai has been arrested on no less than five occasions over the past
two weeks but is free after the police did not press charges.
Biti remains in police custody facing charges of treason and the death
penalty if convicted.
"The treason accusations against Tendai Biti are yet another clumsy attempt
by the government to stop MDC leaders from campaigning," said Gagnon.
Human Rights Watch urged observers from the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) who have been allowed into
Zimbabwe to "actively monitor and publicly report" on countrywide rights
abuses ZANU PF to ensure full accountability for those responsible.
Mugabe blocked observers from the United States and European Union countries
that he accuse of seeking to oust his government.
The Human Rights Watch said the African observers should assess whether the
run-off poll was conducted in accordance to a SADC protocol on the holding
of free and fair elections.
But the foreign ministers of Tanzania, Angola and Swaziland said they did
not believe the run-off poll could be free and fair given the levels of
"There is every sign that these elections will never be free nor fair,"
Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe told a news conference, in the
region's strongest criticism yet of Mugabe's handling of elections.
Tanzania is current Africa Union chair and together with Swaziland and
Angola forms SADC's peace and security troika.
The MDC says political violence has killed at least 70 of its members and
displaced more than 25 000 others and who were in desperate need of
humanitarian assistance at a time the government banned aid agencies from
carrying out humanitarian work.
Mugabe - who rejects charges of political violence against his government -
three weeks ago suspended all work by relief agencies he accused of using
aid distribution to campaign for Tsvangirai ahead of the run-off election -
a charge aid groups deny. - ZimOnline
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