Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bush condems violence in Zimbabwe

The Bush administration has condemned forces loyal to Zimbabwe's government for using violence against opposition supporters, and U.S. officials also criticized Zimbabwe's electoral authorities for their plan to recount the March 29 presidential vote.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said members of Zimbabwe's security forces and supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party have been using violence and intimidation in the wake of Zimbabwe's March 29 presidential and parliamentary elections.
"These incidents appear to target individuals who voted against ZANU-PF candidates during the elections," McCormack said in a statement released in Harare on Wednesday.
Calling on President Mugabe's government to stop perpetrating such incidents immediately and to show restraint and respect for human rights, McCormack said there is "no place for violence or intimidation in a democratic society."
The State Department also updated its travel alert to American citizens in Zimbabwe, saying that some military and police forces, as well as war veterans, are "creating a climate of intimidation and fear across the country."
The travel alert said Americans should be aware that these forces have been especially active in rural areas and high-density suburbs. "There have been attacks on opposition supporters, renewed farm invasions, and arrests of election officials accused of vote tampering. There is a continued risk of arbitrary detention or arrest," the travel alert said.
President Bush telephoned U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on April 15 to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe, according to White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe. According to Johndroe, Bush told Ban it is "important for the situation in Zimbabwe to be resolved peacefully and soon. It's gone on too long."
In remarks to reporters April 15, McCormack said Zimbabwe "is in a crisis," both politically, because the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has refused to announce the results of the March 29 presidential contest, and economically, because of long-standing government policies that have led to hyperinflation, food shortages and mass unemployment.
Despite never having released the presidential ballot results, the commission, which is made up of individuals appointed by Mugabe's government, now is calling for a recount of the vote.
McCormack criticized the idea, saying "there has not been a good chain-of-custody regime in place" for the ballots and ballot boxes since the March 29 vote. "Anything could have happened between election day and when a recount takes place, and that's a cause of deep concern not only for the United States but other countries around the globe," he said.

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