Zimbabwe: Bitter electoral strife looms, UN warns

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The United Nations has warned that Zimbabwe risks plunging political turmoil and violence if fresh elections are held in 24 months time as the country’s political parties compete for power.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the situation could deteriorate further once a new election is called and the three rival parties in the unity government begin contesting for power.

“Politically, general elections expected in 24 months may result in internal competition and renewed violence and human rights abuses as the parties to the inclusive government try gaining popularity by discrediting their rivals,” said OCHA.

The OCHA echoed Morgan Tsvangirai’s bleak summary of the situation in Zimbabwe, noting that the unity government had neither compensated victims of past political violence nor punished the perpetrators, in the process creating a culture of impunity.

The UN humanitarian arm said in some cases aggrieved parties have taken the law into their hands, particularly in rural areas where there had been reports of retributive violence.

“There continues to be reports of retributive violence, mainly in rural areas, particularly where attempts at reconciliation through traditional forms of justice have failed,” said OCHA.

The UN organ also noted continuing and disturbing “instances of abuse of police powers such as arrest and political interference with the work of the Attorney General’s Office”.

It added: “Recent months have seen a number of politically-motivated abductions and related abuse of court process by state officers, invoking powers for further detention without lawful grounds.”

The views expressed by OCHA in the main appeared to dovetail with Tsvangirai’s assessment of the unity government’s performance to date.

Hundreds of Zimbabwean died at last years presidential elections in March in which Tsvangirai outpolled Mugabe but could not meet the set target to be declared president.

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