US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray has warned that without reform of the nation's Defense Forces and other national security institutions, Zimbabwe's next election could be chaotic even if the country carries out electoral and other needed reforms.
President Robert Mugabe has threatened to call for elections by March 2012 and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told the New York Times this week that he considers it possible for elections to be held in the third quarter of next year.
Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and top military officers, have threatened to disregard election results if Mr Tsvangirai were to emerge the winner.
Mr. Tsvangirai has said Zimbabwe could become the next Ivory Coast under such circumstances, referring to the armed civil conflict that followed elections in that West African country until former President Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to concede defeat by now-President Alassane Outtara, could be removed by force.
In Washington this week, Ray characterized Harare’s relations with Washington as strained, but pledged to continue to engage all the governing parties in Harare.
Ray recently met with President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF Chairman Simon Khaya Moyo recently. But soon after those meetings, ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo charged that Ray's overtures masked a new strategy for regime change.
The U.S. government has said ties cannot be fully normalized without reforms allowing free and fair elections. Ray said his recent moves are no departure from that policy.