Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Sunday he is pulling out of this week's presidential runoff because mounting violence and intimidation have made it impossible to hold a credible election.The former breadbasket of Africa is only becoming the land of Mugabe for the foreseeable future.
Tsvangirai announced his decision about Friday's election during a news conference in Zimbabwe's capital after thousands of ruling party militants blockaded the site of the opposition's main campaign rally in a now routine pattern of intimidation.
"We can't ask the people to cast their vote on June 27 when that vote will cost their lives. We will no longer participate in this violent sham of an election," he said. "Mugabe has declared war, and we will not be part of that war."
He said it is the United Nations' responsibility to make sure the people of Zimbabwe are protected from the violence now under way in the country.
Tsvangirai said he would put forward new proposals by Wednesday on how take the country forward. He did not provide any details about what the proposals would include.
"Our victory is certain, but it can only be delayed," he said.
Tsvangirai won the first round of the presidential election on March 29, but did not gain an outright majority against 84-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who has held power since independence from Britain in 1980.
That campaign was generally peaceful, but the runoff has been overshadowed by violence and intimidation, especially in rural areas. Independent human rights groups say 85 people have died and tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes, most of them opposition supporters.
Tsvangirai complained that he was being treated like a "common criminal," with his attempts to tour the country stymied by police at roadblocks.
The state-controlled media have banned opposition advertisements, claiming they "contain inappropriate language and information." The media cited one ad that claimed that Tsvangirai won the election, "which is not the case, hence the runoff."
Tendai Biti, the opposition party's No. 2, was arrested within minutes of his return from South Africa last week and is being held on treason charges.
Tsvangirai had hoped to address his main campaign rally for the runoff Sunday afternoon.
But a Movement for Democratic Change statement said that armed soldiers and police in full riot gear took over the show ground early afternoon. It said that riot police mounted road blocks around the venue and on the main approaches to Harare. It said troops were jogging down another road leading into central Harare.
The party said military helicopters were flying around the city and around the second city of Bulawayo.
"Zimbabwe clearly is under military rule," the statement said.
1 day ago