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The BBC's Greg Barrow reports
"This summit is an opportunity for regional leaders to bring pressure to bear on President Mugabe"
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The BBC's Jane Standley
"African leaders will be forced to raise the issue"
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Agrippa Gava, director War Veterans Association
murdered farmer "a victim of his own violence"
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Friday, 21 April, 2000, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Thousands join Zimbabwe march
The funeral of MDC activist Tichaona Chiminya
Hundreds attended the funeral of Tichaona Chiminya
Several thousand people in the Zimbabwean capital Harare have joined an Easter peace march, calling for a resolution to the growing dispute over land rights.

People from a wide variety of religious faiths walked quietly and calmly through the streets of the capital.

As they marched, however, more reports emerged of incidents of violence at white-owned farms. In the Arcturus area east of Harare, black farm workers were driven off one farm by groups of war veterans and government supporters brandishing sticks and clubs.

The land crisis may be raised at a regional summit hosted by Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls, where African leaders are gathered for talks on the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Avoiding confrontation

Those taking part in the Good Friday march were keen to point out that it was not an anti-government rally and were anxious to avoid confrontation, but said they were encouraged by the numbers who turned out.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai comforts a mourner
The last march to be held in Harare at the beginning of the month was brutally dispersed by government supporters wielding sticks and clubs.

Also on Friday, 500 mourners attended the funeral in southern Zimbabwe of Tichaona Chiminya, an activist from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who was killed in recent violence.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai warned that there would be more government-inspired violence against the opposition in the run-up to planned elections.

"This was a deliberate attack on MDC activists. We will see more of this," Mr Tsvangirai told the gathering near the town of Masvingo.

Over the past two months, war veterans from Zimbabwe's war of independence and government supporters have illegally occupied more than 1,000 white-owned farms.

Congo Talks

Earlier, Zimbabwean officials played down suggestions that its current political crisis would come up for discussion at the Victoria Falls summit.

Defence Minister Moven Mahachi told the BBC that President Robert Mugabe would "brief" leaders on the situation in Zimbabwe, at a summit which is primarily concerned with peace efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Zimbabwe land facts
Total population: 12.5m
White population: 70,000 (about 0.6%)
70% prime agricultural land white-owned (11m hectares)
1m blacks own 16m hectares - often in drought-prone regions
White-owned farms: 4,500
"You don't expect heads of state to come here and start discussing the internal matters of another country," Mr Mahachi said.

He accused the foreign media of exaggerating recent events.

South African foreign affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa also said the summit was primarily about the Congo question, though South Africa would welcome discussion on Zimbabwe.

But correspondents say there are increasing doubts as to whether Southern African leaders will put pressure on Mr Mugabe to end the escalating violence in his country, as Western leaders had hoped.

Congo conflict

The Victoria Falls meeting brings together those governments with a stake in the conflict in DR Congo.

President Mugabe
Britain believes Mr Mugabe is spreading regional unrest
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan Foreign Minister Andre Bumaya, whose governments back the Congolese rebels, are both attending the summit.

Mr Mugabe and Mr Nujoma support Congolese President Laurent Kabila, who has spent more than 18 months fighting against the rebels, who control about half of DR Congo.

The meeting is being chaired by Mozambique's President Joaquim Chissano, who is current head of the Southern African Development Community.

British intervention

The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, says he has asked President Chissano to intercede with President Mugabe over the land reform crisis.

Mr Cook said he hoped Mr Chissano could impress on Mr Mugabe that what he was doing - in allowing the invasion by squatters of hundreds of big farms - was not just damaging his own country.

He said the spreading unrest in Zimbabwe was threatening the stability of the entire region.

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See also:

21 Apr 00 | Africa
Cook seeks Zimbabwe mediator
20 Apr 00 | Africa
Violence flares in Zimbabwe
20 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Queen's note upsets Zimbabwe whites
19 Apr 00 | Business
Zimbabwe's economy under threat
19 Apr 00 | Media reports
SA media urges action on Zimbabwe
17 Apr 00 | Africa
Farmer's widow wants justice
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