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Congress Calls for Fair, Peaceful Zimbabwe Elections


In two resolutions passed this week, the US House of Representatives has joined other western and African countries in stepping up the pressure on Zimbabwe to curb political violence and intimidation before next Friday’s presidential run-off election. One House measure, sponsored by Congressman Donald Payne, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee, condemns the election-related violence and calls for a fair and peaceful resolution of the political crisis. Congressman Payne says it is constructive for countries to continue to persuade President Robert Mugabe forcefully to curb what the resolution calls the orchestrated campaign of violence and harassment against Zimbabwe’s opposition by the ruling party and Mugabe supporters in the police and military.

“I think that it certainly is important that the free world expresses its concern about the situation in Zimbabwe. I think that even though Mr. Mugabe has tended not to listen, I do believe that it is useful for our voices to be heard. The more voices, the better. And at the end of the day, perhaps he may listen to some of the pleas for a fair and free election,” notes Congressman Payne.

The second House proposal, a proclamation authored by ranking Foreign Affairs Committee member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, with bipartisan backing from Republican Ed Royce along with New Jersey Democrat Payne, commends South African dockworkers and citizens in Mozambique who refused to let a Chinese boat delivering arms to Zimbabwe unload its cargo at their ports. Ultimately, the ship went on to Angola, where reports say a significant load of firearms made its way to Zimbabwe. Nonetheless, Congressman Payne likened the inspiration of the early arms embargo proponents to the courageous stand made by dockworkers in Poland in the early 1980’s, who backed trade union leader Lech Walesa’s resistance to a military crackdown on a labor strike at the Gdansk shipyard.

“It’s symbolic that they stood up and said no, we’re not going to do this. And so, there was a tremendous amount of praise. And it does show that people can stand together and defeat tyranny, defeat wrongdoings just by their solidarity,” he said.

Yesterday in a VOA interview, Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai said his latest meeting in Harare with Southern African Development Community (SADC) mediator, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, produced no new plans from Mbeki on how to end the deepening political crisis in Zimbabwe. However, Congressman Payne remarked that MDC calls for the South African mediator to be replaced fail to take note of a significant positive move by Mbeki, who succeeded in winning approval to station one-thousand South African observers in Zimbabwe next week to monitor the June 27 election.

“South Africa has agreed to send one-thousand election monitors to Zimbabwe. I think that that is a positive sign that Mr. Mbeki has not been given very much credit for. But I do believe that if there are sufficient election monitors, they tend to prevent violence from occurring just by their presence. And so I’m not sure that all is lost on President Mbeki’s position. I’m not ready to say that the election will not be fair and free,” he said.

With more African leaders speaking out now on Zimbabwe, the House Africa subcommittee chairman said it was constructive for Kenya’s new prime minister Raila Odinga to address African concerns in Washington this week about the leadership crisis in Zimbabwe.

“I think it’s very important, the fact that Kenya, of course, had its tremendous upheaval at the beginning of this year, which shocked the world because of the stability that Kenya has always shown through the decades. But I do believe that the prime minister speaking out strongly sends a good message to Zimbabwe. And I would hope that Mr. Mugabe, who we all know was a person that we all revered and admired when he and Joshua Nkomo fought the Rhodesian white minority rule, and was of course a hero, and did a great job in education in Zimbabwe….hopefully, there will be a change of heart. And perhaps other African leaders might speak out as the election comes to the date. And that may have influence on the behavior of the security forces and the government of Zimbabwe,” he noted.

The MDC reported yesterday that the bodies of four recently abducted members who were found near Harare were most certainly victims of the Mugabe regime’s campaign of violence and intimidation. Human rights groups reported that an additional eight bodies just discovered were also civilians who were allegedly tortured by ZANU-PF supporters and government agents carrying out President Mugabe’s campaign to boost his chances of victory in next Friday’s run-off contest against Mr. Tsvangirai.

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