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Zimbabwe Government Threatens to Expel Western Diplomats

The government of Zimbabwe warned Western diplomats Monday that they would be expelled from the country if they encourage the political opposition to President Robert Mugabe. NPR correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault details the recent political unrest and violence.

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    Finally tonight, an African autocrat lashes out at his opponents.

    The latest crackdown against dissenters in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe began a week ago. Government security forces arrested and severely beat opposition members preparing to attend a March 11th prayer protest against President Robert Mugabe.

    Among them was 54-year-old Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC. This weekend, three other opposition activists were arrested at the Harare airport.

    Nelson Chamisa, an aide to Tsvangirai, said he was assaulted by government agents. During a telephone interview with Britain's Sky News Channel, Tsvangirai provided details of the attack on his aide.


    … as he entered the departure lounge, he was then knocked off by this group. And he went unconscious and what — and subsequently had to be attended to in hospital.

    And as I speak, he is in a very concussed state, because he has actually sustained a fracture. Part of his eye is fractured, part of the skull over the eye is fractured.


    The crackdown follows lavish birthday celebrations for the 83-year-old Mugabe, who has run the former British colony of 12 million people for the last 27 years. Mugabe has come under increasing international criticism for stifling opposition.

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice condemned the violence last week, saying in a statement, "The world community again has been shown that the regime of Robert Mugabe is ruthless and repressive and creates only suffering for the people of Zimbabwe," adding, "We urge the government to allow all Zimbabweans to freely express their views without being subject to violence and intimidation."

    For his part, Mugabe has been defiant, blaming the violence on the opposition, which he says is supported by former Western colonial powers.


    We do not accept their criticisms at all. Here are groups of persons who went out of the way to effect a campaign of violence. And we hear no criticism at all of those actions of violence.

    None, none of these missions here has said a word in regard to that campaign of violence. And now, when they criticize government which is trying to prevent that violence or to punish the perpetrators of that violence, then, of course, we take the position that they can go hang.

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