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2008 Press Releases

United States Will Continue to Speak Out for Freedom in Zimbabwe


By Charles W. Corey, Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States government is "going to continue to speak out ... to be a voice and beacon for freedom" in Zimbabwe as that country approaches its June 27 presidential runoff election, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said June 2.

McCormack, speaking at the department's daily press briefing, had been asked if the United States had a contingency plan to monitor conditions inside Zimbabwe if the Mugabe government made good on its threats to throw U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James D. McGee out of the country.

"We have a whole embassy of people who are focused either in whole or in part on issues in this election. We are going to continue to speak out. We are going to continue to be a voice and beacon for freedom," McCormack said.

Ambassador McGee and the chiefs of mission from the United Kingdom, the European Union and Japan, plus officials from the Netherlands and Tanzania, recently were detained and questioned for 45 minutes by security forces at a roadblock near the capital, Harare, and again outside a hospital. (See "Police Harass Diplomats After Visit to Zimbabwe Hospital ( ).")

The State Department spokesman told reporters May 13 that the incidents are "indicative of the kind of atmosphere that exists in Zimbabwe right now," and that if foreign diplomats in Zimbabwe are being treated this way, "you can only imagine for Zimbabwean citizens what life is like if they make an effort to speak up, to voice their opinions."

A senior State Department official said the diplomats had gone to meet with Zimbabwean citizens who had been hospitalized after being attacked by forces loyal to President Robert Mugabe. Violence has been escalating in the country since the March 29 election, in which Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party lost its majority in parliament and Mugabe himself trailed behind challenger Morgan Tsvangirai in the presidential vote.
McCormack also was asked June 2 to comment on reports of the recent arrest in Zimbabwe of two Zimbabwean opposition leaders.

"It's troubling, it's disturbing and it is part of a continuing pattern on the part of ZANU-PF to try to intimidate those who would like to speak up with views different than those held by the government," he responded, calling the move "another example of the intimidation that we have witnessed."

For that reason, he added, "it is incumbent upon us as well as other members of the international system to apply as much possible pressure and leverage as we possibly can to see that a runoff election is executed in such a way that people can actually vote their conscience -- that they can vote for the candidate of their choice -- that people are able to do so in an environment free of threat and intimidation and that candidates have an opportunity to use the media, use whatever public media they would like to use, to get out their message -- so that people can understand the platform, values and the person for whom they are voting."