The African Union’s (AU) head shows concern over the military takeover which to him  “seems like a coup” as Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace is said to have fled abroad.

Alpha Conde,

AU leader Alpha Conde, who is also Guinea’s president, said the AU condemned the actions of military chiefs in the southern African country, adding that they were “clearly soldiers trying to take power by force”.

“The African Union expresses its serious concern regarding the situation unfolding in Zimbabwe,” he said, before demanding “constitutional order… be restored immediately” as he called “on all stakeholders to show responsibility and restraint”.

The army chiefs who seized the capital, including the presidential palace and the state broadcaster early on Wednesday, claimed they had not carried out a coup.

Mugabe is believed to be under house arrest despite an army claim that he was “safe”.

The Zimbabwean army said it took Mr Mugabe and his wife Grace into custody but there are unconfirmed and disputed reports that the first lady has fled the country and may be in Namibia.

While United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for calm, non-violence and restraint after gunfire and explosions were heard near Mr Mugabe’s compound.

Armoured vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare, and the military said the action was aimed at targeting “criminals”.

Blasts could be heard in the capital as the military took control of a paramilitary police armoury and government offices.

The political crisis was sparked by Mr Mugabe’s sacking of vice president – and likely successor – Emmerson Mnangagwa last week.

The 75-year-old former intelligence chief, whose ousting appeared to clear the way for Mrs Mugabe to succeed her husband, was accused of plotting against the government.

Following his dismissal, Mr Mnangagwa fled to South Africa and called on members of ruling party ZANU-PF to desert the President

Sky Foreign Affairs Editor Sam Kiley said there was an expectation that Robert Mugabe would give a televised address to the nation.

“The Zimbabweans are talking about a possible deal, possibly by Friday… there is a sense that Robert Mugabe might be prepared to either hand over or endorse the movement of the military at this stage, possibly by the end of the week.

“At the same time there is talk of the establishment of a transition government that would involve members of ZANU-PF, possibly Morgan Tzvangirai, the leader of the opposition, and the postponement or abolition of the December elections.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has urged for “restraint on all sides” and “an avoidance of violence”.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called for “proper, free and fair elections” to prevent Zimbabwe transitioning “from one unelected tyrant to another”.

He added: “We will do all we can, with our international partners, to ensure this provides a genuine opportunity for all Zimbabweans to decide their future.”

 

 

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