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Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai Remains Under Dutch Diplomatic Protection

  • Margaret Besheer

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai remained under diplomatic protection Tuesday evening inside the embassy of the Netherlands in Harare as diplomats sought guarantees from the government of President Robert Mugabe as to Tsvangirai's personal safety should he emerge from the compound.

Tsvangirai took refuge behind the embassy’s walls on Sunday following his announcement that he intended to withdraw from the presidential run-off election scheduled for June 27 due to escalating and deadly political violence, state interference in his campaign, "decimation" of his Movement for Democratic Change and alleged official plans to rig the ballot.

There seemed to be little movement in the political crisis despite a unanimous vote Monday by the United Nations Security Council on a resolution condemning political violence against the opposition. South Africa, which had previously blocked debate on the Zimbabwe crisis along with China and Russia, voted for the resolution though reports said it blocked a stronger resolution recognizing the MDC's claim to power based on March 29 election results.

Results issued by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission on May 2, more than a month after the presidential first-round ballot, showed Tsvangirai with 47.9% of the ballot and Mugabe with 43.2%. The electoral panel said a runoff would be required, later setting the June 27 date.

President Mugabe remained defiant in the face of mounting international criticism - including from African leaders who up to this point had been reluctant to take him to task.

Mr. Mugabe told a rally in Banket, Mashonaland West province, negotiations between the MDC and his ruling ZANU-PF party could only take place after Friday's election, in which he will be the only candidate. Tsvangirai's party gave formal notice of its boycott on Tuesday.

South African President Thabo Mbeki sent envoys to President Mugabe and Tsvangirai seeking a way out of the crisis, speaking in South Africa of a "process which would result in them coming to some agreement about what happens to their country."

The president of South Africa's ruling African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, described the situation in Zimbabwe as “out of control” and also urged rescheduling the ballot.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade joined Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa in calling for a postponement of the election.

Sources said Tsvangirai envoy was in Angola for high level talks with the so-called Zimbabwe troika of the Southern African Development Community.

In an interview from the Dutch Embassy in Harare, Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he welcomed the Security Council resolution. He added that although Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri said Tsvangirai would be safe if he emerged, he could not have confidence in Harare's guarantees of his safety.

Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said Tsvangirai has nothing to fear if he leaves the protection of the Dutch Embassy.

Meanwhile, SADC election observers dispatched to Zimbabwe in recent weeks will stay put for now, said Tanki Mothae, director of SADC's organ on politics and defense.

US Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee briefed reporters at the State Department from Harare Tuesday describing the situation as "critical," noting that political violence continues amid moves by the government to proceed with the presidential run-off election.

McGee summarized diplomatic efforts to secure government guarantees as to Tsvangirai’s security and move toward a solution. He urged regional leaders to take as strong a stand as the U.N. Security Council had done and issue a "clear statement" on the crisis, placing the responsibility for the violence and the crisis squarely on the Mugabe government.

The U.N. Security Council resolution called on the Harare government to stop its campaign of violence and intimidation, saying it has made it impossible for a free and fair run-off election to take place, as VOA's Margaret Besheer reported from New York late Monday.

Zimbabwean Ambassador to the U.N. Boniface Chidyausiku told reporter Patience Rusere on Tuesday that the violence is not state-sponsored, saying the MDC is also to blame.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...


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