Tsvangirai calls for protective armed force

ZIMBABWE opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday called for “armed peacekeepers” to be sent to his country amid mounting international condemnation of President Robert Mugabe over the crisis.

Tsvangirai emerged from the Dutch embassy, where he was holed up for three days after withdrawing from tomorrow’s presidential run-off, and appealed for renewed efforts by regional leaders meeting over the Zimbabwe unrest.

“I didn’t ask for any military intervention, but for armed peacekeepers,” he told reporters, referring to press reports that the United Nations had to go further than verbal condemnation of Mugabe and move to “active isolation” which required “a force to protect the people”.

“This cannot be a part-time mediation effort,” Tsvangirai added in comments to reporters at his house. “The time for action is now.”

He called on the African Union and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) “to lead . . . to start what I would call a transitional setup” that “would allow the country to heal”.

As Tsvangirai left the embassy, police raided a headquarters of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the city of Mutare where 200 people displaced by political violence had taken refuge, according to an MDC spokesman.

The MDC claims scores of its supporters have been killed in political violence since Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of the presidential vote, but did not get the majority needed to become president.

Tsvangirai quit the presidential race last Sunday, saying it was too risky for his followers for him to stay in the battle with Mugabe.

Tsvangirai said no discussion was possible with the government until his party number two and 2,000 political prisoners were freed.

King Mswati of Swaziland and Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete were at a meeting of the SADC’s security committee in Mbabane, said a Swaziland government spokesman.

Angolan president Jose Eduardo Dos Santos or his foreign minister, Joao Miranda, were also expected, but South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki, a mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis, stayed away saying he had not been invited.

The SADC has been criticised for its perceived failure to act over Zimbabwe.

Western nations, including Britain and the United States, have urged the world to isolate Mugabe and declare his presidency illegitimate if there is not a free and fair ballot.

The UN Security Council has condemned the political violence and France yesterday joined other nations in saying it would not recognise “the legitimacy of the power that emerges from the rigged elections of June 27.”

Britain detailed plans to bolster sanctions on Zimbabwe, specifically targeting the “cabal” around Mugabe.


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