Zim poll protests: army tanks, troops siege Harare, one shot dead

A tank patrolling Harare streets

By Washington Post

Armed troops have poured on the streets of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare to try and disperse opposition protesters.

One man has been shot dead after the army opened fire in central Harare to quell protests over alleged fraud in the country’s election.

A number of other protests have been wounded in the Wednesday protests over delays in reporting election results turned violent.

An army tank closes a street in Harare

Thousands of backers of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) chanted anti-government slogans and destroyed benches, signs, stoplights and other targets in central Harare, prompting police to fire warning shots, water cannon and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowds.

Protesters responded by burning tires, blocking streets and throwing rocks until the army intervened sending people running for cover as many were wounded with at least one dead visible, according to Washington Post.

The running battles between protesters and the army turned the centre of the city into a war zone.

A protester was shot dead by the army

Opposition supporters feared that their candidate, Nelson Chamisa, would have the election stolen from him.

Chamisa declared an early victory Tuesday long before the counting had been completed — including in the rural regions that tend to overwhelmingly support the ruling party.

But his backers have levelled claims of rigging and intimidation by the ruling party that took over after long-time leader Robert Mugabe was ousted in November.

An injured protester

The election stands as an important test for Zimbabwe as the country tries to rebuild its economy and international standing after nearly four decades of Mugabe rule.

The violence is reminiscent of the disputed election in 2008 which the opposition claimed to have won outright.

Protesters rage in Harare

International observer missions from around the world released preliminary statements Wednesday that largely withheld judgment on the allegations of rigging and other irregularities for Monday’s contest, though most at least noted polarization and bias in the media ahead of the election.

A prominent election observer, former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, warned that delays in announcing the results could feed “suspicions, tensions and volatility.”

Soldiers carrying canes

“The more the presidential vote is delayed, the more it calls into question the population’s confidence in the election process,” she said.

Protesters surrounded vehicles belonging to the observer missions as they passed through downtown Harare.

A battle tank on Harare streets

On Wednesday, the election commission announced that the ZANU-PF had taken the majority of the seats in parliament, winning 109 out of 210 seats, with 41 going to the opposition MDC and 58 yet to be allocated.

While the presidential contest involved 23 candidates, the main race was between Chamisa, a 40-year-old lawyer and pastor, and 75-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa, who helped engineer Mugabe’s downfall in November.

Mugabe’s 37-year rule ruined the country’s economy and left it isolated on the international stage.

The United States and European Union have been clear that a credible election is their foremost condition for the lifting of sanctions on various Mugabe-era officials and their family members, as well as for backing a bailout for Zimbabwe from the International Monetary Fund.


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