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Friday, April 18, 2008

US attacks Africa over Zimbabwe

WASHINGTON - US authorities on Thursday criticised Africa for its lack of action on Zimbabwe where the results of the March 29 presidential election have not yet been released. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice expressed this criticism in a news conference in Washington. "It is time for Africa to step up," Rice said, asking: “Where is the concern from the African Union and from Zimbabwe's neighbours about what is going on in Zimbabwe?"

African reaction has been subdued to events in the southern African country, where a 19-day delay in issuing results of a presidential poll has fuelled fears of violence, although regional leaders called last weekend for the outcome to be announced quickly. The continent has largely taken its cue from South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki, who has insisted on a softly diplomatic approach to President Robert Mugabe, despite the catastrophic collapse of Zimbabwe's economy.

However for the first time the powerful neighbour on Thursday called for the rapid release of delayed results from Zimbabwe's presidential election. "The Zimbabweans need to be informed about those reasons for holding the results. But the most important thing is that the results need to be verified and released as soon as possible," SA’s spokesman Themba Maseko said. The government of Mbeki has previously hesitated to join international expressions of concern about the delay in issuing the result of the March 29 vote, in which the opposition says President Mugabe was defeated.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Thursday that Mbeki was no longer fit to mediate in the Zimbabwe crisis and he had asked for a completely new regional initiative by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). "President Mbeki needs to be relieved from his duty," he told a news conference in Johannesburg, adding that Mugabe had "unleashed an orgy of violence against the people" after the election. Mbeki led failed SADC mediation last year and has played down the gravity of the post-election deadlock.

Tsvangirai also suggested that there may need to be a special United Nations tribunal to judge crimes committed in Zimbabwe. "I think the current wave of violence against the people must stop and the only way to stop is that those who are committing those crimes must know that they must be answerable one day," he said. Although Mugabe's ZANU-PF party lost control of parliament for the first time in the vote, no results have been released from a presidential poll. But ruling party African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma, who toppled Mbeki from the head of the party last December, has made several statements calling for release of the results.

Mbeki is under criticism at home for his insistence on quiet diplomacy in dealing with the crisis in Zimbabwe, where the economy has collapsed, bringing hyper-inflation, shortages of food and fuel and 80 percent unemployment. Millions of people have fled to South Africa. The election outcome has now become embroiled in several legal cases that are further delaying a result. A court in Harare adjourned until Friday its hearing on an MDC challenge to a recount ordered in 23 parliamentary and presidential election constituencies.

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