UN chief Ban ki-Moon said Zimbabwe’s June 27 presidential poll runoff should be put off following the escalating violence, which has led opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to seek refuge in the Dutch embassy. (Report: C.Norris-Trent and Y.Royer)
As Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai sought refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare, UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon said he strongly urged Zimbabwean authorities to postpone a presidential run-off vote set for June 27.
Speaking to reporters in New York after meeting with members of the UN Security Council Monday, Ban said the runoff vote “would only deepen the divisions within the country and produce results that cannot be credible.”
Ban’s comments came as Tsvangirai was holed up in the Dutch embassy in the Zimbabwean capital, where he sought refuge Sunday night, shortly after announcing that he was pulling out of the June 27 elections.
“It was not a snap decision,” said FRANCE 24 correspondent Alex Duval Smith, reporting from Cape Town, South Africa. “It was an offer he had, which he has taken up.”
According to Duval Smith, shortly after returning to Zimbabwe to campaign for the presidential runoff, Tsvangirai had applied for a new passport, since his old one had run out of pages. But since the new passport had not yet been delivered, Tsvangirai has been unable to leave the country.
“He probably considers himself safest in the Dutch embassy,” said Duval Smith. “But we have no indication as to whether he intends to apply for political asylum. He hasn’t done so yet. I think he’s just keeping himself safe and buying himself some thinking time.”
Police ‘crackdown’ on opposition party headquarters
With only four days to go before the presidential runoff, Zimbabwean police raided the Harare headquarters of Tsvangirai’s MDC party earlier on Monday, arresting more than 60 people, according to party officials.
A Zimbabwe police spokesman however denied there was a raid on MDC headquarters, maintaining that only 39 people had been taken away for hygiene reasons.
The latest police crackdown came as the violence following the March 29 presidential election has been spiraling across the country, sparking widespread international condemnation against Mugabe. MDC officials blame Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party for the death of more than 80 opposition supporters and the displacement of about 200,000 others.
Tsvangirai quits the runoff
Citing the rising violence, Tsvangirai announced his decision to quit the June 27 runoff on Sunday, saying he could not ask his voters “to risk their lives.”
Despite the announcement, senior Zimbabwean government officials said the runoff would continue.
Tsvangirai’s decision to quit the runoff has increased Mugabe’s isolation in the international community, sparking a chorus of condemnation from capitals across the globe, notably from Zimbabwe’s fellow African neighbours.
A day after Tsvangirai’s announcement, the African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) were meeting to discuss the political situation in Zimbabwe.
Britain, Zimbabwe’s former colonial power, is set to take up the Zimbabwean crisis at Monday’s UN Security Council meeting as the international community contemplates wider sanctions against Mugabe’s regime.
Date created : 2008-06-23