Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Was arrest of Zimbabwe opposition leader a warning?

Maybe the arrest today of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was just a warning, but it probably signals that the Mugabe government is serious that it will do anything to hold onto power. Tsvangirai, the Movement for Democratic Change party leader who is campaigning to unseat longtime president Robert Mugabe in a June 27 runoff election, was released eight hours later, apparently unharmed, according to the Reuters international news service. Tsvangirai was arrested while campaigning in Harare, the capital, in the midst of rising violence blamed on Mugabe supporters. Mugabe, who has blamed Tsvangirai supporters for the post-election violence, vowed last month that he would never allow the MDC to take power. Tsvangirai was arrested at a roadblock by police officers and members of the government's Central Intelligence Organization and was held in custody southwest of Harare. "It appears they want to disrupt our campaign program," said George Sibotshiwe, a Tsvangirai spokesman, according to Reuters. After Tsvangirai's arrest, a U.S. State Department called for his immediate release. Tsvangirai has been arrested several times in the past and was severely beaten last year after being arrested at an anti-government rally in Harare, Reuters said. Mugabe has been president of Zimbabwe since the country's independence from Great Britain in 1980 but his party, ZANU-PF, lost its majority in parliament for the first time in the March balloting.

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