US slams Mugabe's 'black Hitler' speech

The United States on Monday accused Zimbabwe’s government of unleashing a new wave of violence against the opposition, which it said was incited when President Robert Mugabe compared himself to Adolf Hitler.

“The United States strongly condemns the unprecedented violence carried out by the Zimbabwe government against domestic opponents,” said State Department representative Richard Boucher in a statement.

“Over the past three days, the Government of Zimbabwe has embarked on a massive retribution campaign against opposition officials, supporters, and other critics of the regime.”

The statement, which will further taint Washington-Harare realtions, said “the upsurge in official violence is directly attributable to President Mugabe’s speech last Friday in which he said he could be a ‘black Hitler ten fold’ in crushing his opponents.”

Mugabe noted in the speech that he had been compared to the former Nazi leader in the British press, and said he was ready to embrace such a role. “This Hitler has only one objective: justice for his people, sovereignty for his people, recognitition of the independence of his people and their rights over their resources,” he said.

“If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold.”

The State Department said that the violence and intimidation followed last week’s work stoppage by the main opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change.

“The United States demands that the Zimbabwe government immediately cease its campaign of violent repression,” Boucher said.

A police representative in Harare said Sunday that 400 opposition members had been arrested since the strike and most were charged with malicious injury to property.

Buses were stoned and burnt, roads barricaded, supermarkets torched and a ruling party office fire-bombed during and after the two-day strike.

Boucher said the violence saw many opposition members beaten and in some cases tortured, adding that one person had died and women were sexually assaulted by police or military officers. The United States said earlier this month that it would sponsor a campaign to censure Zimbabwe’s behavior at the UN Human Rights

Commission.

President George Bush has frozen the assets of Mugabe and 76 other government officials, charging they have undermined democracy. - Sapa-AFP

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