Powell calls for pressure on Mugabe

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The Independent Online

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader returned to court yesterday to face the first of two treason cases - as the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, appealed to African nations to put strong pressure on the government to end its authoritarian rule.

Opposition officials say President Robert Mugabe's government has targeted Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, as part of a desperate attempt to cling to power despite political and economic chaos engulfing the nation.

An estimated 70 per cent of Zimbabweans are unemployed, inflation has soared to 269 per cent, hunger is rife, and recent opposition protest efforts were thwarted only when police and soldiers fired tear gas and live bullets at assembling demonstrators.

Writing in yesterday's New York Times, General Powell called the government "a ruthless regime," accused Mr Mugabe of "violent misrule" and predicted that Mr Mugabe and his cronies would eventually lose their fight for power, "dragging their soiled record behind them into obscurity". However, Zimbabwe's neighbours in Africa have to step up pressure on Mr Mugabe to ensure a swift end to his dictatorship, he said.

"If leaders on the continent do not do more to convince President Robert 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," he wrote.

General Powell also criticised the treatment of Mr Tsvangirai, comparing him to the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who has been imprisoned by her government.

Mr Tsvangirai was released on bail on Friday in the second of two separate treason cases he is fighting. He is accused of advocating the violent overthrow of Mr Mugabe and plotting to assassinate him, which he denies. Treason is punishable by death in Zimbabwe.

Mr Tsvangirai was jailed for two weeks after calling for strikes and protests earlier this month.

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