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Friends of Zimbabwe Urge Democratic Reforms, Endorse SADC Resolutions

The Friends of Zimbabwe, which includes the United States, Britain, France and the International Monetary Fund, said the rule of law and governance are the main challenges for the country, noting recent arbitrary arrests

The diplomatic coalition known as the Friends of Zimbabwe has voiced concern over the violence, intimidation and ongoing arrests taking place in the Southern African country.

In a meeting this week in Brussels called to evaluate political conditions in Zimbabwe, the group endorsed the resolutions adopted by a recent summit of the Southern African Development Community and said it looks forward to full implementation of the Global Political Agreement for power sharing underpinning the Harare government.

The Friends of Zimbabwe, which includes the United States, Britain, France and the International Monetary Fund, among others, said the rule of law and governance are the main challenges for the country, noting recent arbitrary arrests.

The diplomatic working group commended the economic stabilization achieved since the unity government was launched in 2009 and the restoration of basic social services, but said the economy remains fragile and revenue collection remains limited

Spokeswoman Sharon Hudson-Dean of the US Embassy in Harare told VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo that the United States and other friends of Zimbabwe are encouraged by the stronger Southern African regional engagement. But Hudson-Dean said the group continues to urge Zimbabwe to commit to full implementation of the GPA.

The group said it is committed to supporting Zimbabwe and is ready to broaden support as the country moves further towards democracy and respect for human rights.

Elsewhere, hostilities between the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the Zimbabwe Republic Police continued Thursday with the MDC releasing a letter from Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri saying that Zimbabwe’s independence must be guarded against so-called puppets who may be used by former colonizers to regain control - a veiled reference to the MDC.

Chihuri was responding to Finance Minister Tendai Biti who challenged a speech the top cop recently delivered to new police recruits along similar lines.

Biti took exception saying the recruits might interpret the speech to mean they should use violence against members of the political opposition to ZANU-PF, saying President Mugabe's party, which Chihuri backs, constantly refers to the MDC as a "puppet."

Chihuri was quoted as having said "officers must vote wisely and must consider that this country came through the barrel of a gun and we will never allow puppets to lead us. This country came through blood and the barrel of the gun and it can never be re-colonized through a simple pen, which costs as little as five cents."

Biti wrote that, "It is not inconceivable that [Chihuri's] audience interpreted the speech as an invitation to perpetrate violence against those he described as puppets."

To his letter Biti attached a list of more than 200 MDC supporters he said were killed in widespread political violence during the 2008 elections.

"It is inexcusable that almost three years after the perpetrators of these alleged murders, absolutely nothing has been done by the police to arrest those who committed these murders," Biti told Chihuri in his letter.

Chihuri in response accused the MDC of "perpetrating several violent attacks and even murdering police officers," a reference to the May 29 death of a police inspector during a raid on a bar in Glen View, a Harare suburb considered an MDC stronghold. "Such assertions are highly provocative and sickening to say the least," Chihuri wrote.

Chihuri said his remarks to police recruits were intended to educate them on Zimbabwe's history. He said the police never refuse to investigate cases or apply the law selectively as alleged saying cases against all parties have been brought before the courts.

For perspective, reporter Sandra Nyaira turned to MDC Senate Whip Obert Gutu and ZANU-PF Chief Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo. Gutu said the police in Zimbabwe are behaving like the Taliban in Afghanistan and must be reigned in. Gumbo said the police force is professional and urged the MDC to respect that institution.