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Barred From Observing Zimbabwe Poll, EU Engages Regional Group

The European Union has been barred by the Zimbabwean government from officially observing the country's March 29 elections, but EU diplomats have taken steps to stay involved by lobbying Southern African leaders and dispatching an elections expert.

A senior EU official told VOA the bloc does not want to see a repeat of the chaos that engulfed Kenya following the disputed presidential and general elections there, so the EU has positioned an informal observer in Harare and will combine observations from that source with reporting from the Southern African Development Community.

But even for SADC observing the elections is a tall order: the opposition says violence is rising and that President Robert Mugabe has refused to implement terms agreed in South African-mediated crisis talks. The talks dead-ended in January, but interim agreements were reached, including one on the conduct of elections.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has been reluctant so far to criticize Harare, but this week issued a statement urging Zimbabwean security forces not to take sides and to accept the outcome – this after Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri said what he termed Western “puppets” would not be admitted to power.

Political analyst and human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga, who met with European officials last week in Brussels, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the EU promised to stay engaged in Zimbabwe.

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