Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was fleeing troops when he took refuge in the Dutch Embassy in Harare, it emerged today.
Details of Mr Tsvangirai’s frantic dash to safety were revealed by Senegal’s president President Abdoulaye Wade who has been trying to mediate in the Zimbabwean crisis.
Mr Wade said he had hoped to persuade President Robert Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai to share power.
“I can say that this objective has been almost completely snuffed out since I have learned that soldiers went after Morgan Tsvangirai at his residence on Sunday,” he said.
Mr Wade said Mr Tsvangirai was only able to escape to the embassy because he was warned minutes before the soldiers arrived.
Mr Tsvangirai had announced earlier on Sunday that he was pulling out of a presidential run-off election against Mugabe scheduled for Friday.
Mr Tsvangirai had said widespread, state-sponsored violence against his supporters made the vote impossible.
“Today, he is a refugee at the Netherlands Embassy, and there’s no guarantee that soldiers won’t attack that embassy to take him,” Mr Wade said.
Zimbabwean Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga refused to comment on Wade’s accusations, saying: “This is becoming a circus.”
Zimbabwe’s police commissioner Augustin Chihuri claimed neither Mr Tsvangirai nor his party had reported any threats, and police were not seeking the politician.
“Mr Morgan Tsvangirai is under no threat at all from Zimbabweans and he should cast away these delusions,” he said.
Foreign ministers of the Southern African Development Community, the main regional political and economic bloc, called for talks among Zimbabwean leaders.
The foreign ministers, meeting late last night in Angola, called on all sides in Zimbabwe “to continue to work to find a negotiated solution”.
Left unanswered, though, was who would represent the opposition Movement for Democratic change party, with its president in the Dutch Embassy and its second in command, Tendai Biti, jailed in Zimbabwe on treason charges, which can carry the death penalty.
The Zimbabwean government, meanwhile, has said it would go ahead with the runoff, with Mr Tsvangirai’s name on the ballot.
On the campaign trail today, Mugabe repeated his charges that Mr Tsvangirai is being used by Western powers intent on re-colonising Zimbabwe.