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Zimbabwe Observes Africa Day With National Prayers

Zimbabwe commemorated Africa Day Friday with civil society organizations and analysts differing on the day's importance - designated as a national holiday only by four out of 56 African nations.

Africa Day marks the formation of the Organization of African Union, now known simply as the African Union, in 1963. Only Ghana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe treat the day as a public holiday.

Among other activities, church leaders in Harare held a national prayer session which was aborted prematurely after the police told crowds to disperse citing the absence of toilets at the venue.

The event - held at the open space behind the Harare International Conference Centre - was scheduled to end at 5 pm but police stopped it at 1:30pm saying organizers had not met regulatory requirements to provide toilets.

Event co-coordinator Reverend John Chimbambo said they experienced lack of funding to set up necessary facilities.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was one the 30,000 people who were scheduled to attend but his spokesman said he skipped the event as he was preparing for a trip to China.

Small Enterprises and Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni of Zanu PF was the only senior government official present.

Sources said some people could have been scared away by heavy police presence with only about 200 people converging before being dispersed.

Elsewhere, Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe held their own prayers at Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield with acting president Joyce Mujuru as guest of honor.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights meanwhile, urged Harare to adhere to the African Charter on democracy.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer John Makumbe told VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo Africa Day has lost its meaning in Zimbabwe with the enduring political crisis reversing the gains of liberation.

But independent political analyst Livingstone Dzikira differed, saying the day remained significant.