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Home | ZimCrisis#70 -- US Department of State Statements, June 26th and 27th

Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2000 22:38:12 -0700
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From: Zimbabwe Crisis
Subject: ZimCrisis#70 -- US Department of State Statements, June 26th and 27th
Cc: "Australian government":;, "British government":;,
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Hi everyone,

See my editorial comment near the very end, just before the question on Yugoslavia.


Daily Press Briefing Index
Monday, June 26, 2000

Briefer: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman

1 Election Results
1 US Commends Strong Democratic Participation
1 Nothing New on Cuban Doctors

DPB #65
MONDAY, JUNE 26, 2000, 1:35P.M.

QUESTION: Any comment on the Zimbabwean election? The international observer team says the elections could hardly be described as free and fair.

MR. REEKER: Yes, I've seen a number of comments that have come out. We've seen the various reports of high voter turnout, in the neighborhood, I believe, of around 60 percent of registered voters. We've also seen reports that the election was relatively peaceful with relatively few incidents of intimidation or violence reported.

We do commend the Zimbabwean people for their strong democratic participation in these elections, and we call on the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure a very transparent vote count, which is taking place now. I'm going to refrain from commenting further on the elections until the results are announced but, as we noted Friday, we fielded election monitors and our Embassy in Harare dispatched several teams of observers throughout Zimbabwe over the weekend with those elections.

QUESTION: Same general area. Anything new on the Cuban doctors?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything new on that. I haven't seen if they have been turned over to UNHCR control yet. But we'll be happy to try to check into that if you can't get an answer from UNHCR.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how - what your monitors reported back from the elections in Zimbabwe? Did they get the access that they required or requested?

MR. REEKER: I believe that the access, as we discussed a bit Friday, was given. The monitoring teams went out throughout Zimbabwe over the weekend. As I noted, our reports as well as the press reports suggested there was a very high voter turnout, which is a positive thing, and that the election was relatively peaceful with few incidents of intimidation or violence being reported.

QUESTION: So there weren't any incidents of the monitors being prevented from entering polling stations or --

MR. REEKER: None that I've seen, no. Other questions?

Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Briefer: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman

3-5, U S Statement on Elections to be Released; Congratulate People of Zimbabwe
10-11 Despite Harassment, Large Turnout, Peaceful, Well Organized; Some Irregularities;
Parties to Initiate Legal Challenges in Courts; U S Gratified by Transparent Conduct, Pre-
Election Intimidation Rendered Vote Short of "Free and
Fair"; Call for Refrain from Violence Contacts with GOZ in Harare and Washington will

DPB #66
TUESDAY, JUNE 27, 2000, 2:00 P.M.

QUESTION: On Zimbabwe, do you have a comment about the result of the election?


QUESTION: And do you believe that, finally, this election was conducted in a free and fair manner, and that the outcome is credible?

MR. REEKER: We will post a statement following the briefing on the Zimbabwe elections, but let me say that the United States congratulates the people of Zimbabwe for their participation in record numbers in the recently concluded parliamentary elections.

Zimbabwe now has an opportunity to move beyond the destructive polarizing politics of the recent past and begin a new, more constructive chapter in its development. Despite significant violence, intimidation and harassment during the campaign prior to the election, almost two-thirds of registered voters bravely exercised their democratic right to choose their representatives.

Preliminary reports from election observers indicate that the voting process was generally peaceful, orderly and well organized, although serious irregularities occurred in a number of constituencies throughout the country. We share the concerns expressed by international observers over last-minute changes to electoral administrative responsibilities, the accreditation of observers and monitors, and numerous irregularities in the voters roll that led to the disenfranchisement of many voters.

We understand that the parties will initiative a number of challenges through the courts, and we urge all parties to exercise restraint, adhere to the rule of law, and pursue their appeals through established legal channels. Political violence, I'd like to remind everyone, as well as intimidation or retribution, have no place in a democratic society.

This election has signaled dramatically the desire of the people of Zimbabwe for peaceful democratic change, and we strongly urge the Government of Zimbabwe to work with the opposition and civil society to enter into a new period of dialogue that will permit the country to move forward.

In response to your specific question, we are gratified, as I noted in the statement, by the initial reports indicating that, by and large, the conduct of the elections and the tallying of ballots appear to have been done in relative transparency; however, there is no doubt that the violence and intimidation that characterized the pre-election period rendered the outcome of the elections short of free and fair.

QUESTION: Do you want to say who is responsible for the violence and intimidation?

MR. REEKER: I think we've discussed that in the period leading up to the elections, and we called upon everybody to avoid violence and intimidation. I think we indicated early on that the ruling party was responsible for some of the violence and intimidation that we saw. What we want to stress here is that the people of Zimbabwe have spoken; they've cast their ballots in record numbers, standing for the right to choose their representatives; and now we're calling upon the Government of Zimbabwe to work with the opposition and with other elements of a civil society so that they can have a new period of dialogue and goodwill that will permit Zimbabwe to move forward.

QUESTION: I'm kind of stunned with that. It's so mild, given the egregious actions of the government and the intimidation that went on before this election and the violence that did occur during the election. And I'm surprised that the US has not joined the foreign organizations that have condemned these elections.

MR. REEKER: I think the important point here is that this election marks a turning point in Zimbabwe. We have condemned for a number of weeks now from this podium - we've had a number of discussions about the violence that marred the campaign period, that period of many weeks leading up to the election, and our tremendous concerns about that.

And as I noted, the violence and intimidation that took place during that period, regardless of the relative transparency of the ballot counting, rendered the outcome of these elections short of free and fair. No matter how smooth the voting process and how honest the tallying of ballots may have been, they can not erase the negative impact that the violence and intimidation characterized for the campaign period.

So I, in no way, want to fall short of reiterating our concerns about that, the point we made all along about that situation, but I do want to reiterate what I've said in the statement - and you'll see that in a printed form following the briefing - that this is an opportunity to congratulate the people of Zimbabwe who, in spite of the reprehensible violence and intimidation that took place, turned out in record numbers and are giving Zimbabwe now a chance to move beyond the polarizing politics of the very recent past and they bravely exercised their democratic rights. And we're calling upon all of them to work together now to move forward for Zimbabwe's future.

QUESTION: How are you reiterating those concerns? Are you doing it just from the podium or are you going to actually press this with the Zimbabwean Government in some other form?

MR. REEKER: These are issues that I'm sure will be continuously raised by our diplomats in Harare, certainly in our discussions with Zimbabwean diplomats here, certainly generally from this podium as your questions arise, and our statements will reflect that. We will continue to watch, obviously, the evolution of this. As I noted, close to two-thirds of registered voters turned out and we commended them for that.

We're calling on all the political parties in Zimbabwe to encourage their supporters to refrain from any violent actions against other opponents, and we don't want to see a return of the violence and intimidation that occurred before the election, and we don't want that to continue into the post-election period.

Anything further on Zimbabwe?

[The answer was no. Other topics snipped. --Craig]

QUESTION: Let us briefly return to Zimbabwe. Has there been any communication between Washington and Pretoria on the subject of how to move forward vis-a-vis Zimbabwe?

MR. REEKER: I just don't have any specific information on that. I'm sure we have shared our views, but I couldn't tell you exactly who has spoken with whom or where.

[I leave the following question and answer about Yugoslavia in to contrast the language used. Mugabe must be an OK bloke in the eyes of the Americans! I'm not sure how long Milosevic has been around, but Mugabe has been stamping out opposition for twenty years, not to mention what he and ZANLA did for almost as long before that! --Craig]

QUESTION: Yugoslavia today released details of a draft anti-terrorism law. Critics are already saying it's aimed at clamping down on the opposition. Do you have anything?

MR. REEKER: I'm not familiar with the specific law, but nothing would surprise me in terms of Yugoslavia's steps to try to clamp down on the opposition. Milosevic's rather rancid regime has a strong history of trying to stamp out democratic movement within Yugoslavia.

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