- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

The head of an African advocacy group said yesterday that President Bush's recent denouncement of Zimbabwe's disputed election was "hypocritical" in light of his contentious 2000 presidential victory.
"How can we criticize Zimbabwe when what happened in Florida is as bad as anything?" asked Melvin P. Foote, president of the Constituency for Africa, referring to the drawn-out recount in Florida that eventually decided the election in favor of Mr. Bush.
Mr. Foote said the elections held March 9-10 in Zimbabwe, which were conducted amidst charges of government-sponsored violence, were "absolutely undemocratic … but we have to be careful not to criticize other nations' elections."
The Zimbabwe election has created divisions within the Commonwealth group. The body has issued a report that the election was held in a "climate of fear," but African nations have called the process "transparent, credible, free and fair."
"Those who live in glass houses can't throw stones," Mr. Foote said, defending the African nations' post-election pronouncements.
Mr. Bush said last week that the United States will not recognize the re-election of President Robert Mugabe, who was sworn in for another six-year term on Sunday. He has ruled Zimbabwe for 22 years.
During the past two years, Mr. Mugabe's soldiers have violently seized white farms as part of his land redistribution program. At least 10 white farmers have died and many black agricultural workers also have been killed.
Both Nigeria and South Africa have recognized the legitimacy of the election. But Western countries and election monitors have rejected the disputed presidential election, saying that it was neither free nor fair.
"We do not recognize the outcome of the election because we think it's flawed," Mr. Bush said."
He said his administration was consulting with other nations on the issue.
A report from a 61-member Commonwealth group found that many of Zimbabwe's voters were disenfranchised, which was also a complaint of many black voters and their leaders after the election in Florida.
Reaction to Zimbabwe's election among black leaders in the United States has been muted, however.
While Jesse Jackson issued a statement before the election, he is still "reviewing" the news out of Africa before making any further comment, an official with Rainbow/PUSH's Washington office said.
"We will issue a statement soon," said James Gomez Jr., director for international affairs. "But we have conflicting reports coming out of there and we are studying these."
The Commonwealth report that criticized the election would be one factor used in a statement, he said. "We also want to see all reports, not just news reports. We're just trying to be balanced and fair."
Mr. Jackson's statement, issued a month before the election, noted that observers "should be seen as impartial, credible and open-minded. The government of Zimbabwe reserves the right to invite whomever it pleases to observe and report on the election. However, it is the responsibility and obligation of every democratic government to demonstrate transparency, credibility and legitimacy."
Yesterday, the Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe from participating on its councils for one year "because of the high level of politically motivated violence during the elections."


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