29. June 2008

African Observers call for fresh poll

Zimbabwe's one-candidate presidential election was not free and fair and it should be held again, African observers said on Sunday. The observers from the Pan-African Parliament, one of the few monitoring groups in Zimbabwe for Friday's vote, condemned the poll after President Robert Mugabe said he was certain of a sweeping victory. Officials say they hope to release the result on Sunday. That would allow Mugabe to be sworn in for a new term, extending his 28 years of unbroken rule, before attending an African Union summit in Egypt on Monday. Mugabe was the only candidate after Movement for Democratic Change opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew a week ago because of government-backed violence which he said had killed nearly 90 of his supporters. "The current atmosphere prevailing in the country did not give rise to conditions for the holding of free and fair democratic elections. These elections were not free and fair," said Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan-African Parliament observer team. "Conditions should be put in place for the holding of free, fair and credible elections as soon as possible in line with the African Union declaration on the principles governing democratic elections," Khumalo added. He said the AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should engage both sides in the Zimbabwe crisis in negotiations for a transitional administration.
The monitors said they had recorded violence and intimidation across the country, abductions and assaults which had led to some deaths and displacement of population. Mugabe, who thrives in defiance, has rejected a wave of condemnation of the vote from within and outside Africa and says he will confront his critics at the summit in Sharm el Sheikh. "The returns show that we are winning convincingly, that we have won in all the 26 constituencies in Harare, an MDC stronghold where we won in only one constituency in March. That is the trend," Mugabe said in footage broadcast on state television on Sunday. "We are heading for a sweeping victory," Mugabe said in Shona at a relative's funeral late on Saturday. Mugabe's Zanu PF lost elections on March 29 but Tsvangirai fell short of the majority needed for outright victory.
The West increased calls on Saturday for action to end Mugabe's rule after he went ahead with the vote despite a chorus of calls, including from neighbouring states, to postpone it. "The Mugabe regime held a sham election," said United States President George Bush, adding Washington would impose new sanctions and urge the United Nations Security Council to implement a travel ban on Zimbabwean officials and an arms embargo.
Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga was quoted as saying on Sunday that the AU should deploy troops in Zimbabwe to resolve a crisis that has become an embarrassment to Africa. "What is happening in Zimbabwe is a shame and an embarrassment to Africa in the eyes of the international community and should be denounced," Odinga said in Swahili during a visit to his home province Nyanza in west Kenya. "So we are saying we want the African Union to send troops to Zimbabwe. The time has come for the African continent to stand firm in unity to end dictatorship," added Odinga in the speech on Saturday.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on Sunday he would support international intervention to stabilise Zimbabwe and called on the AU to unite in rejecting Mugabe's new administration. "I think that a very good argument can be made for having an international force to restore peace," he was quoted as saying by the BBC in an interview to be aired on Sunday. "If you were to have a unanimous voice, saying quite clearly to Mr Mugabe ... you are illegitimate and we will not recognise your administration in any shape or form -- I think that would be a very, very powerful signal and would really strengthen the hand of the international community," Tutu said. (ZWNews)


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