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Zimbabweans Displaced By Violence Seek Refuge At U.S. Embassy


More than 200 supporters of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change who fled political violence and had been living at the party's Harare headquarters sought refuge on Thursday at the U.S. Embassy, which sought to find shelter for them.

Members of the group said they had been staying at MDC headquarters in Harvest House, an office block in downtown Harare, but were told that the building would be closed because of unsanitary conditions. Hundreds were living there with few toilets or sinks available.

An embassy spokesman told VOA that an estimated 220 people came to the embassy in the early afternoon and announced they sought refuge.

He said embassy staff were "burning up the phone lines talking to international organizations and social partners trying to find safe places for them." He added: We've found some places, we're not sure we've found enough yet."

Although riot police were milling outside the embassy, Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena refused to comment.

Another group of political victims sought refuge last month at the South African embassy and were later moved to a camp in Ruwa, outside Harare, where they have remained.

MDC supporter Simbarashe Mungani, in the crowd of refugees at the U.S. Embassy, said he fled his Mutoko home after it was burned down by ZANU-PF militia some two months ago.

Meanwhile, MDC sources said members taken to the Ruwa holding center have been living under harsh conditions, guarded by armed police around the clock. They are not allowed to leave the camp or receive visitors, according to the opposition sources.

MDC Welfare Officer Fred Makuvise told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that although non-governmental organizations are helping to improve conditions for those internally displaced people, MDC party officials are not allowed to see them.

Worse, the party has received reports that some of those held at Ruwa are being removed at night by parties unknown, and not seen again.

Elsewhere, a number of MDC activists in Mhondoro, Mashonaland West province, remain in hiding following the ruling party’s crackdown on the opposition after the March 29 elections and in the approach to the presidential run-off.

Correspondent Safari Njema tracked down one of the activists who has found refuge in the nearby town of Norton, Mashonaland, and reported on his plight.

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

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