(Photo: AP Images)
Reports of political violence and intimidation poured out of Zimbabwe after its “sham” presidential runoff election on Friday during which citizens were allegedly coerced to vote for President Robert Mugabe while supporters of the opposition party were beaten.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who pulled out of the election last Sunday because of violence directed at his supporters, denounced the election as an “exercise in mass intimidation” on Saturday amid news that four of his party’s officials and the wife of one of them were beaten to death ahead of the runoff vote, according to CNN.
The Movement for Democratic Change, Tsvangirai’s party, said there may be other unreported victims from this week’s runoff election. Previously, the MDC claimed at least 70 of its supporters have been killed since the March 29 election, according to Agence France-Presse.
Ahead of the runoff election, the Lutheran World Federation had urged the international community to address the crisis in Zimbabwe during its Council meeting.
“The world must not stand idly by, as it did during the genocide in Rwanda, and watch the unfolding of a human catastrophe,” stated the LWF Council on Thursday, referring to the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 when nearly 1 million people were killed in about 100 days.
It rejected the legitimacy of the presidential runoff election and called on the international community to also not recognize the result, pointing to systematic politically-motivated intimidation by the current government to retain power.
“We call for the urgent establishment of a process for building peace in Zimbabwe in which all national actors, regional organizations and the international community are engaged,” the Council stated.
“For its part, the Lutheran World Federation stands ready to support the people of Zimbabwe in rebuilding their nation, and in restoring their betrayed hopes of a life in dignity and justice.”
President Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have called Zimbabwe’s elections a “sham,” according to CNN. On Saturday, Bush said the U.S. was working on new ways to punish Mugabe and his allies. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Friday the elections were “an absolutely vacant process,” with “no standing” for the United States, the U.N. Security Council, or the G8.
On Friday, Tsvangirai lamented the current condition of Zimbabwe and said a Mugabe win would deny the country solutions to its problems that a new government could offer.
"We are faced with 2 million percent inflation, massive starvation, people who are seriously underprivileged," he said to CNN by phone. "Mugabe can celebrate that he has won, but it's a Pyrrhic victory as far as we are concerned."
Official results of the runoff are expected by Sunday. Mugabe was the only candidate on the ballot and Zimbabweans who voted did so only out of fear, observers said.