Mugabe threatens to expel US envoy

 

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe threatened to expel the US ambassador today for advice he has given to the opposition’s candidate in a presidential run-off election.

Mr Mugabe, speaking at the formal launch of his campaign for the June 27th run-off, noted US ambassador James McGee had publicly urged opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to return to Zimbabwe to lead his embattled supporters. Mr Tsvangirai returned yesterday after more than six weeks abroad.

“As long as he carries on doing that, I will kick him out of the country,” Mr Mugabe said of Mr McGee, a Vietnam War veteran. “I don’t care if he fought in Vietnam. This is Zimbabwe, not an extension of America.”

Mr Mugabe also ridiculed claims the opposition leader was the target of a military assassination plot.

“Tsvangirai is running around telling people I want to kill him,” Mr Mugabe said. “I don’t even have a bow and arrow.”

Independent human rights groups, Mr McGee and other diplomats and the opposition party say opposition supporters have been beaten and killed by government and ruling party thugs to ensure the 84-year-old Mr Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, wins the run-off. Mr Mugabe trailed Mr Tsvangirai in the first round on March 29th.

Mr Tsvangirai left soon after the first round — in which he won the most votes, but not enough for outright victory — to warn the world about impending violence. He first tried to return on May 17, but called that off after his party said he was the target of a military assassination plot. Mr Tsvangirai has survived at least three assassination attempts.

Mr Mugabe returned to his theme of portraying Mr Tsvangirai as a stooge of the West, charges the opposition rejects.

“We have an enemy who wants us to go back to be ruled by the whites,” Mr Mugabe said.

He claimed former colonial ruler Britain and the US had celebrated the opposition’s showing in the first round. In addition to Mr Tsvangirai coming first in a field of four in the presidential race, his Movement for Democratic Change won control of parliament — the first time Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF lost parliament since independence.

“You saw the joy the British had, the Americans had, you saw them celebrating as if Zimbabweans are an extension of Britain and America,” Mr Mugabe said.

“Some of you want to sell your country for candy, like children,” Mr Mugabe told state television viewers in a country where inflation has spiralled to the point many people cannot afford basic necessities. The economic crisis was a major concern for voters in March.

“What we know is a family is having problems and we should unite as a family against outsiders,” Mr Mugabe said.

AP