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  • Christine Chumbler
    May 9, 2000
      U.S. Official Condemns Zimbabwe

      By Ravi Nessman
      Associated Press Writer
      Tuesday, May 9, 2000; 10:06 a.m. EDT

      JOHANNESBURG, South Africa ** U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
      Strobe Talbott condemned the government of Zimbabwe on Tuesday for
      political violence that has killed at least 18 people * mostly opposition
      supporters * in recent months.

      "What is happening today in Zimbabwe is tarnishing southern Africa's
      otherwise well-deserved reputation for building civil society, respecting
      human rights and establishing the rule of law," Talbott told a conference on
      U.S.-Africa relations at the University of Witwatersrand.

      Also Tuesday, Norway froze much of its economic aid to Zimbabwe to
      protest the situation and to "send clear signals to the authorities in
      Zimbabwe," Development Aid Minister Anne Kristin Sydnes said.

      Armed black squatters, some of whom have said they are being paid by
      the ruling party, have occupied more than 1,000 white-owned farms
      across Zimbabwe this year, demanding the land be seized and
      redistributed to some of the country's 7.5 million landless blacks. At the
      same time, other ruling party militants have beaten * and in some cases
      killed * opposition supporters in advance of a parliamentary election that
      legally must be called by August.

      Talbott decried the tattered state of democracy in Zimbabwe.

      "We all recognize that there are historical inequities in land distribution in
      that country * inequities that can and must be rectified. But that's no
      excuse for the Zimbabwean government to condone * and even instigate *
      blatant violations of the rule of law and violence against supporters of
      opposition parties," he said.

      He called on the Southern African Development Community, which
      comprises 14 countries in the region, "to do everything it can to encourage
      free and fair parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe before August and to
      insist on an end to the violence."

      Talbott spoke before heading to Pretoria to meet with President Thabo
      Mbeki, who is making a state visit to the United States later this month.


      Zimbabwe school farm

      Squatters have invaded about 1,200 farms
      Supporters of land occupations in Zimbabwe
      have invaded a school farm, forcing pupils to
      stay away.

      The squatters are demanding the use of half of
      the buildings at the Rydings primary school
      near Karoi, in the north west of the country.

      Teachers said they feared for the safety of
      300 children, all aged under 11.

      Government supporters
      and veterans of
      Zimbabwe's liberation
      war have invaded about
      1,200 white-owned
      farms since February as
      part of a

      The Rydings school sits
      on a 1,100-acre farm,
      run by a non-profit-making organisation which
      uses the farming activities to subsidise school
      fees for children from neighbouring Zambia and

      Head teacher Iain McKenzie said: "I would hate
      to have 300 children here without certainty of
      their safety."

      He said after
      discussions with
      parents he had decided
      not to reopen the
      school for the start of
      the new term until the
      safety of pupils is

      Mr McKenzie said the
      war veterans had
      demanded a significant
      section of Rydings

      Charles Slight, chairman of the board of
      trustees of Rydings, said: "The farming
      community has tried to keep this issue as
      non-confrontational as possible, but they've
      been told by the war veterans that they also
      want 'half the school.'"

      US speaks out

      The school farm invasion came as US President
      Bill Clinton expressed hopes that the land crisis
      would be lawfully resolved.

      President Clinton said: "I've got (Washington's
      UN) Ambassador Holbrooke over there now,
      working on a lot of the troubles in Africa,
      including the situation in Zimbabwe, and I hope
      it can be worked out in a lawful manner.

      "I think it's quite sad, what's going on,
      because it's a very important country, and it's
      very important to South Africa and South
      Africa's future as well as to the future of the
      people who live in Zimbabwe," he said.

      'Re-education' rally

      War veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi earlier
      served notice that the invasions of
      white-owned farms would be stepped up.

      He urged his followers to seek out British
      passport holders and force them to leave the

      The UK Government has said it has
      contingency plans to evacuate up to 20,000
      people in the event of an emergency.

      At least 12 opposition supporters - including
      three white farmers - have been killed in
      political violence that has accompanied the

      The Zimbabwe Government has pledged to
      break up big, largely white-owned farms and
      redistribute them to landless peasants.


      White Kenyan Says 500 Families Invade Two Farms

      NAIROBI (Reuters) - A white Kenyan government minister said Tuesday that
      hundreds of families had invaded two farms following calls by two radical
      parliamentarians for the occupation of under-utilized white-owned farms.

      Basil Criticos, the assistant minister for roads and public works, said in a
      statement that about 300 families had moved onto his farm and beaten up his
      security personnel. Another 200 families had invaded another farm, he said.

      "Since the debate on this sensitive subject began, my farm has been invaded by
      over 300 families...who not only burned over 2,000 acres of arable sisal but also
      cleared the burned sisal and started cultivating and subdividing the land with
      impunity," Criticos said.

      The statement did not say when the invasions began but said they followed
      exhortations by Social Democratic Party MP Steven Ndicho, and Sharif Nassir,
      a minister in the Office of the President.

      There have been fears that Kenya could be enveloped by violence similar to that
      in Zimbabwe where veterans of the country's civil war have occupied hundreds
      of white-owned farms they say were stolen by British colonists about a century
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