Britain has led the international cries of alarm over Zimbabwe’s ever-worsening election crisis after the African nation’s main opposition leader pulled out of the presidential run-off race at the weekend.
Morgan Tsangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, quit the second round of the vote, saying spiralling violence meant a fair ballot was impossible:
“The conditions prevailing as of today do not permit the holding of a credible poll, the militia, the war veterans, even Mugabe himself has made it clear that anyone that votes for me in the forthcoming election faces a real possibility of being maimed or murdered.”
Earlier, thousands of pro-Mugabe youth militia, armed with iron bars and sticks went on the rampage at an opposition rally. British Foreign Minister David Milliband says the African Union must intervene:
“There is not a military option for Britain when it comes to Zimbabwe, but it is significant that African states are now talking about a peacekeeping force. Obviously it would be an African force. But today is the day for political clarity from leaders around the world and that is what we want.”
South African President and Zimbabwe mediator Thabo Mbeki has called on Tsangirai and Mugabe to negotiate.
Officials say Zimbabwe’s government has called for Tsangirai to rethink his decision to pull out of the election.
The withdrawal means Robert Mugabe could now be sworn in for another five-year term but he may face difficulties governing as the MDC won control of parliament in legislative elections in March.