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Powell denounces Zimbabwe's leader

Powell cites misrule, corruption; vows U.S. aid if Mugabe gone

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has "no legitimacy or moral authority."

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Tuesday condemned Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and his "violent misrule" and envisioned another round of elections and a transitional government with the "president gone."

In an op-ed column published in The New York Times on Tuesday, Powell urged the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, to "legislate the constitutional changes to allow for a transition" that would bring a new leader to the country.

"With the president gone, with a transitional government in place and with a date fixed for new elections, Zimbabweans of all descriptions would, I believe, come together to begin the process of rebuilding their country.

"If this happened, the United States would be quick to pledge generous assistance to the restoration of Zimbabwe's political and economic institutions even before the election. Other donors, I am sure, would be close behind."

The United States and Britain have led international condemnation of Mugabe's government, blaming it for economic, political and human rights abuses, and said that the nation's 79-year-old president cheated his way to re-election in 2002 polls.

Robert Mugabe in a file photo
Robert Mugabe in a file photo

In the column, Powell said "for hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans, the worst has already come" and said the economy is "near collapse."

"Millions of people are desperately hungry because the country's once-thriving agricultural sector collapsed last year after President Robert Mugabe confiscated commercial farms, supposedly for the benefit of poor blacks. But his cynical 'land reform' program has chiefly benefited idle party hacks and stalwarts, not landless peasants. As a result, much of Zimbabwe's most productive land is now occupied by loyalists of the ruling ZANU-PF party, military officers, or their wives and friends."

He said "reckless governmental mismanagement and unchecked corruption have produced annual inflation rates near 300 percent, unemployment of more than 70 percent and widespread shortages of food, fuel and other basic necessities."

Powell said that on June 6, police arrested Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Movement for Democratic Change, which has said Mugabe's government is illegitimate and blames it for ruining an economy struggling with high inflation and unemployment, as well as crippling shortages of food and fuel.

"They paraded him in a courtroom in shackles and leg irons before releasing him on bail on June 20. His offense? Calling for work stoppages and demonstrations to protest economic hardship and political repression."

Powell compared Tsvangirai to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar opposition leader now in custody.

"Like the Burmese junta, President Mugabe and his Politburo colleagues have an absolute monopoly of coercive power, but no legitimacy or moral authority."

"How many good Zimbabweans will have to lose their jobs, their homes, or even their lives before President Mugabe's violent misrule runs its course?

Powell said the United States and the European Union has "imposed a visa ban on Zimbabwe's leaders and frozen their overseas assets."

We have ended all official assistance to the government of Zimbabwe. We have urged other governments to do the same," Powell said. "And we will continue to assist directly, in many different ways, the brave men and women of Zimbabwe who are resisting tyranny."

Powell said "if leaders on the continent do not do more to convince President Mugabe to respect the rule of law and enter into a dialogue with the political opposition, he and his cronies will drag Zimbabwe down until there is nothing left to ruin -- and Zimbabwe's implosion will continue to threaten the stability and prosperity of the region."

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