United States Senator Chris Coons says he is concerned about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe where at least seven people were shot dead by the Zimbabwe National Army last Wednesday during protests over delays in releasing results of the presidential election.
Coons, a Democrat who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement issued Tuesday the crackdown on civilians by state security agents has no place in a democracy.
“I am watching the situation in Zimbabwe very closely, and I am concerned about reports of arbitrary arrests, detentions, and government-sponsored violence. These tactics have no place in a democracy, and the government must ensure they stop immediately.
“Any disagreements over last month’s election should be dealt with through fair and open investigations, hearings, and legal processes. I am particularly alarmed to hear that members of the MDC Alliance have been detained by government-backed security forces.
"Reports of the detention of Tendai Biti at the Zambian border are especially unnerving. The U.S. Senate will hold the government of Zimbabwe responsible for ensuring Mr. Biti and other detainees are not harmed in any way. I also call upon the Trump Administration, the U.S. State Department, the governments of Zimbabwe, Zambia and other regional actors to stand against politically motivated arrests and to support and promote the rule of law.”
He urged Zimbabwean authorities to restore order in the country.
“The people of Zimbabwe have suffered through such tactics of repression and intimidation for decades. Last month’s election was supposed to offer them something different. It is not too late for the leaders of Zimbabwe to restore the sense of hope and fairness that its people deserve.”
Biti is reported to have skipped the border and is currently seeking political asylum in Zambia. He is accused of allegedly inciting people to protest over the outcome of Zimbabwe's just-ended general elections.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission declared incumbent president Emmerson Mnangagwa winner of the presidential poll with 50.8 percent of all votes cast compared to his rival Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance with 44.3 percent.
Chamisa has dismissed the results as fraudulent and is expected to launch a court petition within the next two days.
Mnangagwa says he won the poll.