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American Senator Says Use of Military to Suppress Zimbabwe Protesters Echoes Dreadful Past

Senator Jeff Flake
Senator Jeff Flake

United States Senator Jeff Flake, who was observing elections in Zimbabwe, says the use of the Zimbabwean military to respond to political protests does not signal a new era for the troubled southern African nation.

In a statement released on his website, Flake (Republican, Arizona) said the killing of people in the streets of Harare on Wednesday during protests by the opposition over the delay in releasing presidential poll result reminds local people of the government of former president Robert Mugabe.

“After a day of peaceful voting on July 30th, the violence on August 1st that claimed the lives of at least six people and injured many more was a throwback to the old days. The use of the Zimbabwean military to respond to political protests, or the use of the police force to disrupt press conferences, does not signal a new era, rather it echoes a dreadful past.

According to Zimbabwean police, seven people died when the national army fired live bullets to stop protesters, who demanded an immediate release of election results of a poll that was conducted last Monday.

The protesters accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission of favoring the ruling Zanu PF party.

Flake says to ZEC needs to take action to dispel these fears.

“In order to instill confidence in the election results, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must now make good on its commitment to release comprehensive polling data in a transparent manner that includes results from each polling station signed off by party agents who were present for the casting of ballots and the tabulation of results. Challenges to the results must be pursued through legal channels.”

He said Zimbabweans want a democratic and prosperous future.

“During my visit to nearly a dozen polling stations scattered throughout rural Zimbabwe, I saw citizens, some young and agile, others bent with age, walking miles for the chance to cast a vote that mattered. I saw representatives of ZANU PF and MDC Alliance sitting together, chatting amicably and helping each other keep proper tallies. In everyone I encountered, I saw the hope for a brighter, more democratic and prosperous future for Zimbabwe.

Flake noted that locals deserve a good government. “… After decades of misrule by Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe deserves to have a government worthy of its people.

“Here’s hoping that future is at hand.”

Flake, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, is among several Americans who observed the elections.