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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 12:57 GMT
EU sanctions move 'baffles' African nations
Government supporters in Harare
The EU fears Mugabe is trying to steal the election
African nations have expressed surprise at the EU's decision to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe and withdraw its election observers.

Neighbouring South Africa described the move as "difficult to fathom".

What are the democratic principles that [Mr Mugabe] is flagrantly abusing?

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo

"We're really surprised at this decision, because if there are allegations that elections might not be free and fair, then it is important to ensure that as many neutral, objective, impartial observers are in place," Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad told SABC radio.

Observers from South Africa and the Commonwealth are still in Zimbabwe.

The South African head of the election observer team from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Samuel Motswaynarnay, contests the view prevalent in Europe that Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party is preventing free and fair elections through violence.

Mr Motswaynarnay attended a Zanu-PF rally at the weekend.

"It was quite big," he said. "I think there was an attendance of anything up to 20,000 people at the rally."

Robert Mugabe
Mugabe is accused of using violence to ensure victory
"Everything proceeded in a very orderly way, and there was no evidence of any coercion or harassment caused by the police who were there in large numbers.

"We also attended a rally of the opposition party, in Harare, and that also proceeded quite smoothly, with no evidence of violence at all."

Nigeria

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo - who brokered an agreement between Britain and Zimbabwe last year - also challenges the EU assertion that Mr Mugabe is using unacceptable means to ensure his re-election.

"What are the democratic principles that he is flagrantly abusing?" Mr Obasanjo asked. "He says he is going into an election. He has parties other than his own that are allowed freely to contest and participate.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo
Obasanjo rejects claims Zimbabwe's elections have been compromised
"He has asked for observers from all over the world to come. He has asked for the foreign press from all over the world to come.

"He has worked with other political parties and civil society and religious leaders in his country, to reduce the level of violence."

Joel Kibazo, spokesman for the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, said that its mission would go ahead as planned.

"Our observers are now in Zimbabwe, he said. "We've got 10 on the ground, and by the end of the week, we will have a large group of observers. We hope to have more than 40 in total."

"The Commonwealth has decided that what it wants to do is observe the elections, and we are continuing with that."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"The sanctions are unlikely to change anything"
Zimbabwean journalist Basildon Peta
"The decision to impose sanctions was long overdue"
Commonwealth Secretariat spokesman Joel Kibazo
"We would like to find out what is happening in Zimbabwe"

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See also:

14 Feb 02 | Africa
13 Feb 02 | Africa
06 Feb 02 | Africa
05 Feb 02 | Africa
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