The European Union has called for a “peaceful resolution” to the unfolding crisis in Zimbabwe, after the army put long-time President Robert Mugabe under house arrest in a move that military officials insist is not a coup.
“It is a matter of concern for the EU,” European Commission spokeswoman Catherine Ray told reporters during a press briefing on Wednesday, shortly after soldiers and armored vehicles began blocking roads to the main government offices, the parliament, and the courts in central Harare.
“We call on all the relevant players to move from confrontation to dialogue with the aim to a peaceful resolution,” she added, underscoring the need for respecting “the constitutional order and democratic governance.”
Zimbabwe’s ruling party, ZANU-PF, said in a statement earlier that the 93-year-old president’s decades-long grip on power was coming to an end through a “bloodless transition.”
Mugabe and his military forces, who had long helped him stay in power, have been at odds over the past few weeks.
After taking control of the country’s state broadcaster, a spokesman for the military said the armed forces were not taking over the government and had only taken action to “target criminals.”
A government source told Reuters later on that Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo was among those detained. He was a leading member of the so-called ‘G40’ faction of the ZANU-PF party, run by the president’s wife, Grace Mugabe.
Mugabe and his wife have been on the EU’s sanctions list along with other key figures in Zimbabwe’s ruling elite, facing travel bans and asset freezes abroad.
The Zimbabwean president has called sanctions, which were first imposed by the US and the EU in 2002 over rights issues, “wrong,” blaming them for his government’s failure to pay its workers on time, which led to a crippling strike last year.
France watching closely
France also reacted to the situation in the African country, saying that it was closely following the events.
“We reiterate our attachment to constitutional law and respect of the legitimate aspirations of the Zimbabwean people,” French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne told reporters.
“We encourage all parties to find a peaceful solution within this framework and without violence,” she added.