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Zimbabwe Opposition Calls on African Union to Get Involved - 2002-07-10

Zimbabwe's opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, has called on the new African Union to get involved in his country's crisis. The MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, could not go to Durban for the launch of the African Union because the police have taken his passport.

Mr. Tsvangirai has been unable to travel outside of Zimbabwe for four months. He had to surrender his passport when he was arrested and charged with treason, a charges he denies.

Though he could not go to Durban, Mr. Tsvangirai has sent a message to the summit leaders. In a statement issued Wednesday, he challenged the African Union to act against Mr. Mugabe, saying his election victory was stolen.

While many Western and Commonwealth countries agree the March presidential elections were neither free nor fair, the old Organization of African Unity endorsed Mr. Mugabe's victory. Critics point out that it was able to do this even though its tiny election observer mission did not venture outside of the capital, Harare.

In his statement, Mr. Tsvangirai said the Zimbabwe government was illegitimate and was the biggest challenge now facing African leaders. He said they must deliver a clear message to Mr. Mugabe that his abuse of the rights of Zimbabweans was unacceptable.

Unlike Mr. Tsvangirai, President Mugabe was able to attend the summit in Durban. Although Zimbabwe did not appear on the public agenda at the summit, there are reports South African President Thabo Mbeki and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo were going to meet with Mr. Mugabe to express their concerns over the country's food situation. According to the United Nations, six million people, nearly half the population, are in need of food aid.