Zimbabwe: Continent’s Top Leaders Call for Free Polls

12 June 2008

Cape Town

Fourteen former African presidents, two former heads of the United Nations, African Nobel laureates and some of the continent’s top artists and business leaders have called for an end to violence and intimidation ahead of Zimbabwe’s June 27 presidential election run-off.

They also called on the Zimbabwean government to restore full access to the country for humanitarian and aid agencies helping the country’s people.

"We are deeply troubled by the current reports of intimidation, harassment and violence," say the leaders in an open letter published on Friday.

"It is vital that the appropriate conditions are created so that the presidential run-off is conducted in a peaceful, free and fair manner. Only then can the political parties conduct their election campaigning in a way that enables the citizens to express freely their political will."

The signatories to the letter include former UN secretaries-general Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali and former presidents Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, Abdusalami Abubakar of Nigeria, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae of Botswana and Nicéphore Soglo of Benin.

Business leaders signing included Mo Ibrahim, founder of Celtel International, and Sam Jonah, former chief executive of the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation. Nobel Peace Prize winners Wangari Maathai of Kenya and Desmond Tutu of South Africa also signed, as did civil society leader Graça Machel and musicians Youssou N’Dour and Angelique Kidjo.

The leaders encouraged civil society groups and individual citizens to sign up to the letter in a website launched on Friday, www.zimbabwe-27June.com

They said in their letter that to live up to the aspirations of Zimbabweans who made sacrifices for their liberation, "it is vital that nothing is done to deny the legitimate expression of the will of the people…" Also, they said, there was a "huge number of Africans who want to see a stable, democratic and peaceful Zimbabwe."

They called for "an adequate number of independent electoral observers, both during the election process and to verify the results" and said that whatever the outcome "it will be vital for all Zimbabweans to come together in a spirit of reconciliation to secure Zimbabwe’s future."