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Zimbabwe Unrest Continues, African Leaders To Meet With Mugabe - 2001-09-09


Unrest on commercial farms in Zimbabwe is continuing, with at least two farms being invaded by pro-government militants while owners have been held hostage in their homes. The presidents of Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Malawi are scheduled to arrive in Harare Monday to discuss with President Robert Mugabe an agreement signed in Nigeria to end violence on farms.

Under the accord, the violence will end and there will be no more invasions, while pro-government militants and squatters will move off farms that have been illegally occupied.

In return, Britain and other western countries will provide at least $50 million for resettlement of poor people and for compensation to farmers who give up their land.

Since the agreement was signed, there have been at least six incidents of violence on farms, say commercial farmers, while two farms have been invaded and the homes of workers on one of them burned down. The new incidents included two farmers held hostage in their homes until freed by police intervention. A woman who was caretaking a homestead was forced to flee when a mob marched on her house.

President Robert Mugabe says he accepts the agreement. On his return Sunday from a week's visit to Libya, he told a news conference, "I accept the agreement." He says that formalities of acceptance have still to be undertaken by his Cabinet and his ruling party's politburo, which decides policy.

Political science Professor Masipula Sithole says it is possible Mr. Mugabe will veto the agreement in order to win the presidential election scheduled for next year. University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer John Makumbe describes Mr. Mugabe as "insincere" and accuses the president of, in his words, "hoodwinking the world" by pretending to support the Nigerian agreement. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change says Mr. Mugabe will probably discard the agreement.

Meanwhile, the Movement for Democratic Change has accused Mr. Mugabe's ZANU party of electoral fraud during the two-day poll to elect a new mayor for Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second biggest city. The MDC says it has videotaped busloads of youths being secretly taken to Bulawayo from outlying areas to vote in the election. Several MDC officials arrested by police while filming, are in jail in Bulawayo.

Two diplomats from the U.S. embassy in Zimbabwe who witnessed the arrests were questioned by police and allowed to go after they produced their identity documents.

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