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U.S. Urges Zimbabwe Government to Support Free and Fair Election
<i>(Editor&#39;s Note: On June 23, 2008 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a statement condemning the Zimbabwe government&#39;s continuing campaign of violence against its people, and urging the international community to address this
(Editor's Note: On June 23, 2008 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a statement condemning the Zimbabwe government's continuing campaign of violence against its people, and urging the international community to address this issue. As a military headquarters, U.S. Africa Command plays a supporting role in U.S. diplomacy, and the U.S. Department of State continues to be the lead U.S. agency for U.S. relations with other countries. During the current one-year transition phase, U.S. Africa Command is part of U.S. European Command, which for several decades has coordinated U.S. military support to U.S. diplomacy in the majority of African nations, including Zimbabwe.) Washington -- The Zimbabwean government's continuing campaign of violence and intimidation against its political opposition and opposition supporters makes it "impossible for there to be a free, fair or peaceful election in Zimbabwe," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says. That violence caused Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai to announce June 22 that he no longer will be a candidate in the June 27 runoff election. In June 23 statement, Rice condemned the violence being perpetrated against the people of Zimbabwe by President Robert Mugabe and his supporters. "It is abundantly clear that Mugabe is determined to thwart the will of the people of Zimbabwe as so clearly expressed on March 29," in which MDC candidates won a majority of the country's parliamentary seats and Tsvangirai received more presidential votes than Mugabe, she said. Rice also said it was "particularly troubling" that international election monitors who were in the country for the scheduled presidential runoff vote, also have been reported as victims of "state-sponsored violence." (See "No Pretense Zimbabwe Vote Will Be Free and Fair, Rice Says.") The secretary said Mugabe's regime "cannot be considered legitimate in the absence of a runoff" and called for the MDC and the governing Zimbabwe African National Union -- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) to work together. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the United States hopes there are "reasonable individuals" within ZANU-PF "who are Zimbabwean patriots first and part of the Mugabe patronage machine second" who are willing to work with the MDC to reach a political settlement. Secretary Rice also said Mugabe's government "must be held accountable by the international community" for its failure to protect its own people, and urged the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union Peace and Security Council, and the United Nations Security Council to take up the issue "immediately." (See the full text of Rice' s statement.) Earlier on June 23, Casey said the U.N. Security Council was planning to meet on Zimbabwe later in the day. International efforts are focused on getting the Mugabe regime "to halt violence and also to work out a resolution to this," he said. UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORT FOR TSVANGIRAI'S DECISION U.S. officials "understand and support" Tsvangirai's decision to pull out of the election. The MDC leader has had sporadic contact with U.S. officials in Washington and in Zimbabwe's capital Harare, but the United States had no involvement in his decision, Casey said. "I don't think any political party would be able to seriously consider contesting an election in which its rallies are suppressed, its supporters are jailed, harassed, in some cases killed," he said. In addition, with the continuing food crisis in the country, opposition supporters are "basically faced with a choice between being able to exercise their franchise or being able to feed their family," because their voting cards are being stolen when they apply for food rations. The Mugabe government's actions make it "abundantly clear ... that neither he nor any of those supporting him believe that he would win in a free and fair election and they're resorting to this kind of violence as a response." The spokesman said that absent a free and fair election, Mugabe's government "has no legitimacy in the eyes of its people, in the eyes of the United States or on the eyes of the international community." He also criticized the Zimbabwean government's statement that it intends to hold the June 27 vote despite Tsvangirai's withdrawal. "A referendum in which almost literally those that don't wish to vote for the current government have guns placed to their heads can hardly be considered legitimate by anyone," Casey said. ZIMBABWE'S NEIGHBORS FACING GREATEST IMPACT OF CRISIS U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee, spoke to an audience in Pretoria, South Africa, June 19 and urged action by Zimbabwe's neighbors, saying the effects of the crisis outside the country's borders "will only grow more severe." The country is "on the precipice," facing lawlessness, anarchy, and starvation, he said, as it continues to cope with its economic collapse. McGee said Mugabe's regime is "out of control," and his "once-proud liberation movement" now is "willing to beat and kill its own citizens ... [and] willing to violate the norms of civilized societies." McGee said that, as of June 19, at least 3,000 people had been hospitalized, more than 60 killed and more than 30,000 had been displaced from their homes due to the political violence perpetrated by Mugabe's supporters. "Corruption, greed and the need to maintain themselves in power have converted freedom fighters and liberators into lawless tyrants," he said. McGee told his South African audience that U.S. influence in Zimbabwe is limited. "The impact of Zimbabwe's crisis will be felt the most by its neighbors, and they can do the most to solve it." As much as one-quarter of the country's population has fled to neighboring countries such as South Africa due to the economic collapse, and McGee said starvation and anarchy will cause many more to leave. He also said the transformation of Zimbabwe from a regional food exporter into one dependent on food aid, along with a suspension by Mugabe's government of most international food aid from nongovernmental organizations in Zimbabwe, is having an effect on its neighbors, especially in light of the global food crisis. "Zimbabwe's neighbors have the most to lose if the crisis continues and have, far and away, the most influence on this country," he said. "The Mugabe regime has shown itself quite willing to ignore international condemnation of its heinous acts. [But] this regime will find it much more difficult however to ignore regional leaders and pressure." To read the policy statement released by the Department of State, visit