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Zimbabwe Cracks Down On Opposition After Disputed Presidential Election


After a disputed presidential election, Zimbabwe has cracked down on the opposition. One of its leaders sought asylum in neighboring Zambia, but he was returned, then detained. Now he's out on bail. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: These seven seconds are what got Tendai Biti in a world of trouble.


TENDAI BITI: The results show beyond reasonable doubt that we have won this election.

PERALTA: In fact, the electoral commission declared President Emmerson Mnangagwa, not Biti's opposition MDC-A party, the winner. And Biti was then hunted down by security forces, who charged him with fomenting violence and of announcing unofficial results. A video posted on Twitter shows Biti crossing the border into Zambia with the help of his supporters. Biti asked for asylum, but Zambia sent him back to Zimbabwe to face authorities. Dewa Mavhinga of Human Rights Watch says what happened to Biti is just a small example of what's happening to opposition supporters across Zimbabwe.

DEWA MAVHINGA: We have documented groups of armed uniformed soldiers on a rampage, plainclothes police and also unidentified gunmen targeting senior opposition officials.

PERALTA: Last week, at least six people were killed when the military opened fire on protesters. Maxwell Murieto was in downtown Harare when that happened. He says police found an opposition card in his car. Military guys, he says, blindfolded him and drove him to a building somewhere where they started hitting him.

MAXWELL MURIETO: (Speaking Shona).

PERALTA: He says they hit him with their guns, and they slapped the bottom of his feet with an electrical cable. I ask why he thinks they did that.

MURIETO: (Speaking Shona).

PERALTA: "It's about protests," he says. "They don't want dissent." Mavhinga of Human Rights Watch says this is a dangerous parallel to what happened after Zimbabwe's 2008 elections. Security forces unleashed systematic violence on the opposition and ended up displacing tens of thousands of people. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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