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Zimbabwe Constitution Talks Resume After Chaos


Delegates to Zimbabwe's troubled constitutional convention have resumed work, following the violent disruption of events Monday by supporters of President Robert Mugabe.

The resumption of the conference to discuss a new charter followed a joint press conference by President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in which they condemned the disruptions.

There was a strong police presence at the Harare conference center when the session re-opened with about 4,000 registered delegates.

Shortly after the session began, a noisy crowd of ZANU-PF women were reprimanded by the chair, Hope Sadza, a prominent academic.

Speakers from political parties and human rights groups presented their views on a bill of rights, local government and the role and responsibilities of traditional leaders.

Movement for Democratic Change legislator Douglas Mwonzora, who is on the parliamentary committee organizing the process, said people needed a new constitution to ensure essential freedoms.

The parties in the unity government pledged in last year's global political agreement to draft a new constitution that will go to a referendum next year before new government elections.

One delegate at the conference said many are still uneasy, but most of the war veterans who had been at the forefront of the violence Monday did not turn up when the conference resumed.

Two ZANU-PF ministers accused by Movement for Democratic Change delegates of organizing the disruptions were also not present because they were in a cabinet meeting.

The conference aims to design and appoint committees and assign them to gather information from people around the country about what they want to see in a new constitution.

On Monday, Parliament Speaker Lovemore Moyo, of the Movement for Democratic Change, was hounded from the podium as he made his opening address. Furniture was hurled around the hall, and he was sprayed with water while ZANU-PF militants shouted insults at the MDC.

Thousands fled the conference center because they said they feared violence.

Zimbabwe operates under a constitution written in London before independence in 1980. It has been amended 19 times and invests Mr. Mugabe with extraordinary powers.

A majority of Zimbabweans, led by the then-six-month-old MDC, turned down a new constitution designed by Mr. Mugabe in 2000. Since then there has been ongoing political turmoil.

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