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Democracy Winner Mugabe*

Mugabe: Democracy was the winner

March 17, 2002 Posted: 5:24 PM EST (2224 GMT)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Thanking Zimbabwean voters for their "resolute, anti-imperialist stand" in last weekend's election, President Robert Mugabe accepted another six-year term as leader.

"I come before you in a moment and mood of national pride and joy tempered with a sense of humility," Mugabe told a crowd of cheering supporters in his acceptance speech on Sunday, shortly after he was sworn in as president.

He also attacked former colonial power Britain, saying: "We have dealt a stunning blow to imperialism.

"You certainly have been able to see how Britain and its white allies have blatantly sought to ensure that this last presidential election be won by their protege and yet not by me and (ruling party) ZANU-PF."


CNN's Charlayne Hunter-Gault has more on another victory by President Robert Mugabe in Harare, Zimbabwe (March 17)

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Mugabe indirectly dismissed criticism from the United States and other Western nations -- as well as his main presidential challenger Morgan Tsvangirai who have questioned whether the election was free or fair.

"Both sides have, therefore, something to rejoice about as, indeed, something to mourn about," Mugabe said. He explained that while Tsvangirai's opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, lost the presidential vote, it recently won a majority of seats in the parliamentary election.

"But these nimble joys and aches aside, the greatest winner, you will agree, was our democratic process."

Mugabe has led Zimbabwe as its prime minister and president since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Several political groups observing the March 9-11 vote said the election was carried out in a climate of fear and intimidation.

The largest of the political groups observing the election -- the Commonwealth observer group, headed by former Nigerian leader Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar - announced that the conditions leading up to the vote "did not allow for a free expression of will by the electors."

No Western leaders were present at Sunday's inauguration ceremony, however representatives from the United Nations as well as several African countries -- including Mozambique, Tanzania, and South Africa -- were there.

Mugabe thanked both African and non-African countries for their support in the election.

"We shall live up to their calling and expectations," he said. "We shall never offend .. against right of the people to determine their future, choose their leader, reject them at will and pave the way that they see fit ... to greater prosperity for Africa."

Mugabe vowed to speed up a controversial and often violent land reform programme. "The land reform programme must proceed with greater speed and strength so the losses and drawbacks of the current drought-ridden season can be overcome," he said.

The programme was started in 1992 to redistribute white-owned farmland that constitutes about 70 percent of the country's total. In 2000 Mugabe's government lost a referendum that would have allowed seizure of white-owned farmland without compensation.

Not long after, squatters and war veterans began illegally occupying farms, anyway. Several white farmers were killed during the farm invasions. By the end of August, more than 3,200 farms had been targeted for seizure, and about 1,000 had been occupied by squatters.

It was not clear whether all of the farms would be seized, but fears continued that redistribution would cause an economic meltdown in Zimbabwe and destabilise a region already plagued by an AIDS epidemic and severe economic problems.

EU leaders, ending a summit in Barcelona on Saturday, have threatened more sanctions against Zimbabwe and said it would send a team to talk to Zimbabwe's neighbours.

After the head of the EU's election observer mission was expelled from Zimbabwe in February, Brussels imposed a visa ban and a freeze on the overseas assets of Mugabe and 19 close associates.

A final communique issued on Saturday evening after the Barcelona EU summit said: "The European Union will maintain its humanitarian assistance to the people of Zimbabwe and will consider possible additional targeted measures against its government."

Britain's Minister for Europe, Peter Hain, told reporters that EU foreign ministers would consider tougher measures when they meet next month.

Diplomatic sources said on Saturday that South Africa and Nigeria had stepped up efforts to avert Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth over Mugabe's disputed victory.

They said South African President Thabo Mbeki and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo hoped to fix a political compromise before talks of the so-called troika of Commonwealth leaders in London on Tuesday who have been asked to devise a response to the election.

Mbeki and Obasanjo are members along with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Commonwealth analysts said they believed the three leaders will not advocate collective sanctions against Zimbabwe. Howard was likely to favour some form of suspension which Mbeki would oppose, leaving the deciding vote to Obasanjo, they said.

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