The Nation (Nairobi)

Zimbabwe: Army Chief Warns of Coup If 'Sell Outs' Win

Nairobi — The commander of Zimbabwe's army, General Constantine Chiwenga has warned that he will overturn the constitutional order if Robert Mugabe loses to "sell outs and agents of the West."

"Elections are coming and the army will not support or salute sell-outs and agents of the West before, during and after the presidential elections," Gen Chiwenga told Zimbabwe Standard, a privately owned newspaper.

"We will not support anyone other than President Mugabe who has sacrificed a lot for this country."

Mr Mugabe accuses his challengers of being stooges of Britain and the United States, whom he says are bankrolling their campaigns.

Zimbabwe's elections since 2000 have been marred by violence mostly blamed on Zanu PF supporters. The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and human rights groups say the environment has not changed this year. "The police are acting in a partisan manner, banning our candidates and their supporters from conducting door to door campaigns, especially in the cities," Mr Nelson Chamisa, the spokesman for the Mr Morgan Tsvangirai led MDC said.

Meanwhile, the European Union raised concerns today about the fairness of elections set for March 29, noting that European observers had not been invited to monitor the vote, adds Reuters. "The (EU) Council remains very concerned about the humanitarian, political and economic situation in Zimbabwe and conditions on the ground," it said in a statement agreed by foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels. "(It) may endanger the holding of free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections," the statement said, urging veteran President Mugabe to ensure the elections respect international standards.

The March 29 election presents Mr Mugabe with one of the biggest challenges to his rule since taking office in 1980.

Millions of Zimbabweans hoping for an end to a decade-long economic crisis are due to vote in presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections described by Mr Mugabe and his opponents as a landmark poll in the post-independence period.

EU relations with Zimbabwe have been tense for years, and have been a thorn in EU-Africa relations. The 27-nation bloc slapped visa bans and asset freezes on Mr Mugabe and over a hundred top officials after a controversial distribution of white-owned commercial farms to mainly landless blacks and Mr Mugabe's disputed re-election in 2002.

"We want to see elections that are properly free and fair in Zimbabwe," said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. "The voice of the people of Zimbabwe needs to be heard in free and fair elections."

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