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'My People Elected Me in Valid Election,' Mugabe Tells UN - 2002-09-13

In a defiant speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has accused the international community of interference in his nation's elections and defended his country's controversial land reforms.

On March 13 of this year, Robert Mugabe was declared the official winner of Zimbabwe's presidential election, extending his 22-year rule. International observers say the elections were flawed by violence, intimidation, and voting irregularities.

Mr. Mugabe used his speech to the General Assembly to defend his election. "Well, my people elected me, and that election was held to have been valid by Africa and its organizations. But Europe said 'No', and it's Europe that yesterday was our oppressor and colonialist. Europe said 'No', but Africa said 'Yes.' Who do we listen to? The whites in Europe or the blacks in Africa? We listen to our own blacks and their judgment. They are our people. They are the ones who should elect us, and no one else," he said.

Mr. Mugabe also used his U.N. speech to lash out at critics of his land redistribution program, under which nearly 3,000 white farmers have been ordered to hand over their land, without compensation, to landless blacks.

"The primary objective of our agrarian reform is to redress colonial injustice, perpetrated by Britain, whereby a minority of British settlers in 1890 seized our land and acquired our natural resources, but never paid any compensation to our ancestors," he said.

Critics say the land re-distribution program has taken the country from being the "breadbasket of Africa" to the brink of starvation.

Mr. Mugabe defiantly told his critics that his country wants to go its own way and in his words, "refuses to be an extension of Europe."