Amid a deepening political crisis in Zimbabwe and a mounting tide of violence against opponents of the government, U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee issued a message to Zimbabweans Thursday deploring post-election "beatings, abductions, burning of homes and even murder" allegedly carried out by ruling party militia.
McGee, who had maintained a low profile after taking up his post in November 2007 in hopes of initiating a dialogue with the government of President Robert Mugabe, urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release the results of the presidential election held March 29 with parliamentary and local council elections. House, senate and council elections have been issued, but the presidential results have not.
McGee's message was released by the U.S. Embassy in Harare on the eve of the country's independence day marking the end of colonial rule in 1980. It coincided with one from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging Southern African leaders to "step up" to press the Harare government to make the election results public.
"Sadly, as Zimbabwe celebrates its 28th birthday, many Zimbabweans are unable to celebrate," the U.S. ambassador stated in his message. "What should be a proud and joyful day for Zimbabweans is overshadowed by uncertainty and fear."
He described as "disturbing" reports emerging from the country's rural areas, formerly strongholds of Mr. Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, which since the election have been under assault by ZANU-PF youth militia and liberation war veterans punishing communities considered to have betrayed Mr. Mugabe.
In an interview with reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, McGee explained why he spoke out on the eve of Zimbabwean Independence Day, reviewed the crisis, and examined the chances for a peaceful resolution.
The two formations of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have claimed a majority in the lower house of parliament, and the MDC grouping led by Morgan Tsvangirai has asserted that he claimed more than 50% of the presidential vote.
Citing "confirmed reports of threats, beatings, abductions, burning of homes and even murder, from many parts of the country," McGee called on the government to "protect the human rights of all Zimbabweans, on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release the results...and for all parties to respect the outcome."
McGee concluded: "Zimbabweans have expressed their desire for change and that must be respected." The United States welcomed Zimbabwe's independence on April 18, 1980, the ambassador noted, and "we look forward to regaining the sense of cooperation and achievement we shared on that day."