US and UK speak on Harare post-election violence


Britain’s Minister for Africa Harriett Baldwin yesterday said she was “deeply concerned” about the deadly violence in Harare which claimed six lives on Wednesday and called on political leaders to ensure calm and restraint “at this critical moment”.

Baldwin in a statement on Twitter also urged British citizens in Zimbabwe to check for travel alerts on the changing situation in the country.

The United States embassy also warned Americans to avoid the central business district after Wednesday’s chaos in which the military entered downtown Harare and opened fire to disperse opposition supporters who were protesting against alleged electoral fraud by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

“The political situation in Zimbabwe remains uncertain,” the embassy warned.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) condemned the military’s use of force on protestors and called on the ruling and the opposition political parties to maintain peace and respect human rights.

“Reports indicate that the ZDF (Zimbabwe Defence Forces) opened fire, using live bullets and wantonly brutally assaulting unarmed protesters resulting in several people sustaining injuries and some people losing their lives,” ZLHR said in a statement.

ZLHR further said while it does not condone any violent acts by members of the public or political party supporters, it believes the ZDF and the police could have handled the situation in a restrained manner without subjecting people and the media to arbitrary and unlawful acts.

United Nations secretary-general António Guterres expressed concern at the reports of violence in Harare and urged political leaders and electoral contestants to pursue any disputes through peaceful means, dialogue and in accordance with the law.

The Carter Center also called on political leaders to shun inflammatory statements which could incite further violence.

“Security forces should protect citizens and avoid disproportionate use of force. The Carter Center stands with Zimbabwe in its commitment to peace and democracy,” former US President Jimmy Carter said.

The Amnesty International called on security agencies to investigate the deaths of six protestors during their clashes with the army.

“It is unfortunate that this election has descended into bloodshed, which could have been avoided if security forces had exercised restraint against protesters. The army’s conduct should be promptly investigated, with those responsible brought to justice,” Amnesty International acting secretary-general Colm Ó Cuanacháin said.

“By using live ammunition against unarmed protesters, the army has broken the very same rule of law that they should protect. The millitarisation of the prevailing post-election environment is muzzling freedom of expression, association and assembly. People must be guaranteed their right to protest.”

Different heads of international election observer missions among them European Union, Sadc, African Union, Comesa and Commonwealth in a joint statement expressed grave concern over the post-election violence.

“We denounce the excessive use of force to quell protests and urge the police and army to exercise restraint. We urge Zec, to release the full and detailed results expeditiously, in a transparent and accountable manner. This election presents an opportunity for Zimbabwe to break the cycle of electoral contentions and post-election violence,” the observer groups said in a joint statement.

– NewsDay

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