The official results of the Zimbabwean presidential vote have yet to be released. But according to several independent polls, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has won the vote. It also appears that President Robert Mugabe's party has lost control of the parliament for the first time since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980.
In response, President Mugabe's government has begun a violent crackdown on the political opposition. Members of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change have been streaming into Harare, the capital, in search of protection from government-sponsored gangs that have been rampaging across Zimbabwe. These gangs are targeting opponents of the Mugabe government. Riot police stormed the opposition party headquarters, arresting several hundred victims of the violence, including women and children, who had sought sanctuary there. Most of those arrested have been released. Police also ransacked offices and seized computer files.
Zimbabwean police carried out raids on the home and office of the head of an election-observer mission that had determined President Mugabe had lost the March 29th vote. Election officials and journalists have also been arrested.
The crackdown comes amid growing domestic and international pressure on President Mugabe for his disastrous economic policies that have led to chronic food shortages. Increasingly, political leaders in southern Africa have spoken out against Mr. Mugabe's political mismanagement and human rights abuses.
In a written statement, U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee said, "We have disturbing and confirmed reports of threats, beatings, abductions, burning of homes and even murder, from many parts of the country." Ambassador McGee called "on the government to protect the human rights of all Zimbabweans." The government of President Mugabe and the ruling party ZANU-PF must respect the desire of Zimbabwe voters for change.