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Mugabe Acknowledges Land Reform Program Flawed - 2002-12-13

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe acknowledged Friday the land-reform program his government enacted almost two years ago was flawed and had, in some cases, led to chaos. Mr. Mugabe used his speech to warn Western countries that, if they continued criticizing his government and human rights record, he will take it out on the white community in Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe for the first time admitted that all is not well with the land reform program that was launched in early 2000.

Speaking at the opening of the annual conference of his ruling ZANU-PF party, Mr. Mugabe said some people have not taken the land allocated to them. He said some of those who have taken possession of their land are involved in claims and counterclaims with competing settlers. He appealed to the newly-settled landowners to stop fighting over the land.

Mr. Mugabe castigated Zimbabwean whites for committing what he called the "unforgivable sin" of trying to resist land reform. He also attacked Western countries for joining with Britain in demonizing Zimbabwe. "The more they work against us, the more they express their hostility against us," Mr. Mugabe warned, "the more negative we shall become to their kith and kin here."

The ZANU-PF conference is taking place in Chinhoyi, a farming town 115 kilometers north of the capital, Harare. It is being held at a time when Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst crisis since gaining independence in 1980. Zimbabweans in recent months have had to deal with shortages of basic foods and fuel and a soaring inflation rate.

The president, however, did not make any direct reference to the economic situation, choosing instead to attack Western leaders for the current crisis.

He told the 3,000 ZANU-PF delegates: "It doesn't matter how strong they may be. Zimbabwe is our land. This is the only heritage we have, and here we shall live and here we shall die."

He also said he will not bow to pressure to form a coalition government with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

He asked why Western leaders did not accept his electoral victory last March, since African countries had said the election was fair. He also questioned why U.S. President George Bush joined other Western leaders in condemning his re-election. He said the American leader was not elected but became president after the United States Supreme Court made a ruling in his favor.