U.S. Calls Zimbabwe Election "Fraudulent," Won't Recognize Government (2002)
(IPS) WASHINGTON --
Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee issued a veiled warning Tuesday that if the Mugabe government goes forward with its planned Friday electoral run-off -- in the absence of an opposition candidate -- the U.S. will view the resulting government as illegitimate and take the "expected" steps.
Speaking from the capital, Harare, via teleconference, McGee painted a dire picture of the current situation and urged African leaders to play a more active role in pressuring President Robert Mugabe to cease violence against leaders and members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
"Regional bodies have a tremendous amount of influence, even more than the West," McGee said, noting that Zimbabwe is a landlocked country where "very simple forms of pressure can be exerted and have a tremendous and immediate impact."
MDC leader and presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai is still taking refuge at the Dutch Embassy, to which he fled for safety Sunday after announcing that increased violence against MDC supporters had led him to withdraw from the race.
Some 2,000 MDC activists were holed up at Harvest House, the MDC headquarters in the capital, where according to McGee they share one toilet and are packed so closely together it is nearly impossible to climb the stairs to the top of the seven-story building.
On Monday most of those at Harvest House dispersed rapidly after a warning from Western diplomats that the building was about to be raided by Zimbabwean armed forces, but some 30 people were nonetheless arrested, McGee reported, stressing that "the violence has not abated."
McGee underlined that Zimbabwe is facing not only a political crisis but a humanitarian crisis of vast proportions and said that the U.S. is working closely with the UN, the Red Cross and other Western missions to deliver food and other help to those displaced by widespread violence and suffering the impact of a crumbling economy.
Following Tsvangirai's decision to withdraw from the electoral race, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that "it is impossible for there to be a free, fair or peaceful election in Zimbabwe on Jun. 27" and called on the UN Security Council, African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) to take up the issue of Zimbabwe.
The U.S. used its position as rotating president of the UN Security Council Monday to elicit a unanimous statement on the situation in Zimbabwe, condemning "the campaign of violence against the political opposition" and denial of political space for free and fair elections, as well as expressing concern at the "grave humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe."
The Security Council also condemned the Mugabe government for suspending the operations of humanitarian organizations, "which has directly affected one and a half million people, including half a million children."
The Security Council statement was bolstered by remarks by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging that the Friday run-off be postponed: "There has been too much violence, too much intimidation. A vote held in these conditions would lack all legitimacy."
Ambassador McGee noted, however, that all indications are that the run-off election will be held, and mentioned widespread rumors that armed forces and paramilitary groups will "force people to vote and take action against those who don't."
A summit meeting of the African Union is scheduled this weekend in Egypt. The U.S. hopes for a clear statement from the group condemning the Mugabe government and questioning the legitimacy of the run-off outcome.
Reluctance by the AU, SADC, and particularly the government of South Africa to condemn and sanction Mugabe has frustrated efforts by the West to see the aging and increasingly despotic leader removed from power.
Asked what the U.S. will do in the case of a "win" by President Mugabe on Friday, McGee said that such decisions will be made at a high level in Washington, but added that the resulting government will be seen as "illegitimate" and that U.S. policy would "move in the direction you'd expect it to."
McGee did not elaborate on exactly what this direction might be, but at the very least it would involve intensified diplomatic efforts to isolate the Mugabe regime.
The U.S. bases its claims of illegitimacy on the results of a general election held in March, during which the MDC appeared to have won a majority of the Parliament and presidential vote.
The Mugabe government refused to release the results for several weeks, and then claimed that neither presidential candidate had won a majority, thus requiring the run-off scheduled for this Friday.
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Albion Monitor June
24, 2008 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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