Zimbabwe PM: Military involved in violence
By ANGUS SHAW
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s prime minister on Sunday accused the
military of deploying to villages to attack civilians appearing to back the
former longtime opposition leader who now shares power with the country’s
president of more than three decades.
“They should be at the epicenter of defending the people and not attacking
and brutalizing them,” Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said of the military
in a nationwide message on the eve of a two-day public holiday marking the
guerrilla war that led to independence in 1980.
Tsvangirai urged the military to “leave politics to the politicians,” and
said the symbolic Heroes Day and Armed Forces Day holiday needed to be a
reminder of the impartiality demanded of police and the army in the
Military commanders loyal to President Robert Mugabe have refused to salute
Tsvangirai, a former labor leader who did not fight in the guerrilla war
that ended British colonial rule.
They accuse him of being a security threat for his pro-Western links. One
general in the military command has spoken out against Tsvangirai and vowed
the military will not recognize him as the country’s leader if he defeats
Mugabe in elections.
“We naturally take umbrage at the militarization of our politics and the
politicization of the military,” Tsvangirai said.
Rights groups blame police and troops for much of the state-orchestrated
violence surrounding election campaigning since Tsvangirai founded his
Movement for Democratic Change a decade ago as the first major challenge to
Military officers have also been drafted into posts in the electoral
administration and other state bodies.
The prime minister’s party has called for reforms in what it calls “the
security sector” under the power-sharing agreement that followed disputed
and bloody elections in 2008. It has demanded “securocrats” return to their
barracks, but Mugabe has refused to allow regional mediators to investigate
the party’s complaints against the police and army.
Monday honors fallen guerrillas in the seven-year bush war that swept Mugabe
to power as well as political leaders of his party buried at Heroes Acre, a
shrine in western Harare. Tuesday’s holiday is celebrated with military
Tsvangirai said troops deployed in villages across the country had a
national duty to be disciplined and non-partisan.
He said lawmakers and ordinary Zimbabweans were assaulted, arrested and even
killed for supporting his party.
“We must think long and hard whether this can be the legacy of true national
heroes” who freed the nation from colonial-era domination, Tsvangirai said.
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