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Archive for Friday, April 4, 2008

Offices raided, foreign reporters held

Men talk in front of posters of the leader of Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, Zimbabwean incumbent President Robert Mugabe, on Thursday in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Men talk in front of posters of the leader of Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, Zimbabwean incumbent President Robert Mugabe, on Thursday in Harare, Zimbabwe.

April 4, 2008

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— Intruders ransacked offices of the main opposition party and police detained foreign journalists Thursday in an ominous sign that President Robert Mugabe might turn to intimidation and violence in trying to stave off an electoral threat to his 28-year rule.

Earlier, Mugabe apparently launched his campaign for an expected run-off presidential ballot even before the official results of Saturday's election were announced, with state media portraying the opposition as divided and controlled by former colonial ruler Britain.

Five days after the vote, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission still had not released results on the presidential election despite increasing international pressure, including from former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who recently mediated an end to Kenya's postelection violence.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change already asserted its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, won the presidency outright, but said it was prepared to compete in any run-off.

The police raids came a day after official results showed Mugabe's party had lost control of parliament's 210-member lower house. The election commission was slow on the 60 elected seats in the Senate, releasing the first returns late Thursday that gave five seats each to the opposition and ruling party.

Tsvangirai tried on Thursday to reassure security chiefs who vowed a week ago not to serve anyone but Mugabe, according to a source close to the opposition leader. But an agreed meeting with seven generals was canceled when the officers said that they had been ordered not to attend and that they would be under surveillance, the source said.

The man, who requested anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, gave The Associated Press a copy of a letter signed by Tsvangirai outlining "MDC guarantees to the uniformed forces of Zimbabwe." It was given to the generals earlier in the day, he said.

The letter promises generous retirement packages for those unwilling to serve an MDC government. It also promises not to take back farms given to officers under Mugabe's land reform program, except in cases in which an officer got several farms or if land was being neglected.

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