Image: Morgan Tsvangirai
EPA file
Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai talks to reporters at a June 27 news conference in Harare. 
msnbc.com news services
updated 6/29/2008 10:55:51 AM ET 2008-06-29T14:55:51

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Sunday rejected a government invitation to the inauguration of President Robert Mugabe for a new term and called on Africa not to recognise his re-election.

"Well, you know that the whole inauguration is meaningless as far as I'm concerned, so I can't give support to an exercise I'm totally opposed to... the whole world has condemned it, the Zimbabwean people will not give this exercise legitimacy and support," Tsvangirai told Reuters .

Separately, an international rights group alleged that supporters of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe used batons and thick sticks to beat people who couldn't prove they voted in a runoff election in which the longtime ruler was the only candidate.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it has documented numerous incidents of intimidation and violence by Mugabe supporters before, during and after Friday's poll.

Mugabe was scheduled to be inaugurated Sunday afternoon before leaving for Egypt, where an African Union summit will be held Monday.

Election condemned as sham
African and other world leaders have widely condemned the election as a sham. Tsvangirai had pulled out of the runoff, citing state-sponsored violence and intimidation against his Movement for Democratic Change party.

Human Rights Watch said it documented incidents of reprisal attacks by supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF against people in the capital, Harare, who did not go out and vote for Mugabe.

Residents in two neighborhoods said that Mugabe supporters went from door to door in Saturday's early hours, forcing people to show their fingers for signs of the indelible ink which shows that a person voted, the organization said in a statement.

Those who did not have ink on their fingers were taken away and beaten. Others were targeted because their names did not appear on a list compiled by Mugabe's ZANU-PF party that showed who voted.

Mugabe, 84, who has been Zimbabwe's president since independence from Britain in 1980, is expecting an overwhelming win. But observers say the victory will be hollow because the few Zimbabweans who went to the polls did so only out of fear.

Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan-African Parliament observer mission, said at a press conference Sunday that political tolerance in Zimbabwe had deteriorated to "lowest levels in history."

Khumalo said Saturday many of those who did vote cast their ballots for Tsvangirai, whose name remained on the ballot because election officials said he withdrew too late to remove it.

Tsvangirai won more votes than Mugabe in official results from the first round of the presidential election, but not enough for an outright victory.

Contrary to the state-run newspaper's report of a "massive turnout" in Friday's election, observers reported low turnout.

Angolan state press reporters in Harare said they estimated turnout to be about half the voters registered for the first round. They did not report any acts of violence or other incidents.

Zimbabwe state radio reported that Mugabe had met with observers from the African Union and the regional Southern African Development Community who said the voting was peaceful.

The election followed a campaign in which, according to human rights groups, at least 86 people died and some 200,000 were forced from their homes.

Most of that violence was blamed on police, soldiers and Mugabe militants. There were reports of victims being beaten for hours and bodies mutilated. When their main targets could not be found, relatives — elderly parents, young siblings — were attacked.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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