Archive | April, 2008

Increasing Substance Use Among Elderly A Neglected Problem

30 Apr

Increasing Substance Use among Elderly

A Neglected Problem

By J. P. Anderson

‘Older substance users can be categorised as early onset users (survivors) or late onset users (reactors). Early onset users typically have a long history of substance use which persists into old age. Late onset users often begin using because of stressful life events, including retirement, marital breakdown, social isolation or bereavement. In Relation to alcohol use, studies show important clinical differences resulting from the age of onset in patients’.

Substance use is generally associated with young people, but such problems have no age limits. Current evidence in relation to the elderly is limited, making it difficult to estimate the precise extent and implications of this concern.

However, forecasts for the coming years are troubling and substance use by older adults is likely to become a neglected problem among our neglected citizens.

Europe is experiencing a pronounced ageing of its population. During the 20th century, the number of Europeans aged 65 or over trebled, and life expectancy more than doubled. By 2028, more than a quarter of Europe’s population will be aged 65 or more.

The number of older people with substance use problems or requiring treatment for a substance use disorder is estimated to more than double between 2001 and 2020. This is partly due to the size of the baby-boom cohort (born between 1946 and 1964) and the higher rate of substance use among this group.

The increasing number of older adults with substance use problems will place new and greater demands on treatment services. Programmes that are accustomed to dealing mainly with young populations will need to adapt to meet the needs of this older group.

Prescribed and over-the-counter drugs:

The elderly are frequent and regular consumers of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Persons over 65 use about one-third of all prescribed drugs, often including benzodiazepines and opioid analgesics.

Older women are more likely to be prescribed, and to misuse, psychoactive medications than men, and are also at a higher risk or prescription drug misuse than other age groups. Problems in this group are particularly likely to go unrecognised.

Prescription drug misuse among the elderly may be iatrogenic (inadvertently caused by treatment). This may occur because of a failure to regularly monitor medication use and treatment response, or by being prescribed multiple drugs that have undesirable interactive effects. Medical exposure to prescribed medications with the potential for misuse or dependence is a significant cause of problematic drug use by many older adults.

Older adults who develop problems with prescription drugs often differ from their peers who consume illicit drugs, as misuse may be intentional or unintentional.

Such incidents may range in severity from single cases of misuse, inappropriate use (such as ‘borrowing’) a medication from a friend or relative, through periodic recreational use, to persistent abuse.

Tolerance and physical dependence can develop when prescription medications are taken for prolonged periods, even at appropriate doses and withdrawal symptoms can occur if the drug is discontinued.

Where the misuse of prescribed or over-the-counter drugs by older is intentional, this may involve: deliberately using higher than prescribed doses, using for extended periods, hoarding medication, and taking medication together with alcohol (polydrug use).

Illicit drugs:

Like their younger counterparts, older adults may use illicit drugs. Although illicit drug use is less common in this group, its prevalence is increasing. Estimates from the United States suggest that the number of persons aged over 50 needing treatment for illicit drug problems may increase by up to 300% between 2001 and 2020.

As methadone and other maintenance programmes become more effective at retaining patients in treatment and reducing overdose deaths, the number of older people patients will gradually increase.

In Europe, between 2002 and 2005, the proportion of reported patients aged 40 or over being treated for opiate problems more than doubled (from 8.6% to 17.6%).

Although little is known about the risk factors for illicit drug use among older adults, previous abuse or dependence are often salient features: most older users of illicit drugs are early onset users: illicit drug use is also a problem among persons with co-occurring mental health problems. Within mental health services, cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug.

Regular users of recreational drugs are also growing older and may experience more complications with age. Many stimulants lead to changes in brain receptor function, raising concerns about their long-term effects. Such problems may interact with other processes to speed up the progression, or increase the severity of, meurocognitive impairments associated with ageing.

Alcohol:

Statistics show that up to 10% of the elderly population of the United States are heavy or problem drinkers, and between 2 and 4% meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol use or dependence. In Europe, 27% of persons aged 55 and over declare drinking alcohol on a daily basis. Available evidence suggests that this age group is at a relatively high risk of experiencing drinking problems.

The metabolic and physiological changes associated with ageing may lead to harmful effects at lower levels of consumption than for younger drinkers.

A study of alcohol misusing patients in six European countries found that older problem drinkers had more physical health problems than their younger counterparts, despite drinking less and being less alcohol dependent than the later.

Excessive drinking among the elderly may also aggravate medical problems associated with ageing. Older adults with health problems who are heave drinkers are at an elevated risk and should be targeted for interventions to help address his particular problem.

Polydrug use:

The use of drugs and alcohol in combination leads to a grater risk of social and health problems. Apparently innocuous prescribed or over-the-counter medications may interact with alcohol, leading to excessive sedation and increased risk of accidents and injuries. Similarly, the combined use of alcohol and other drugs can cause problems among older persons, even with light or moderate drinking.

Central nervous system depressants (e.g. benzodiazepines and opioid analgesics) are commonly used by older adults. The adverse effects of these drugs are enhanced by even small amounts of alcohol.

In addition, mixing alcohol and sedatives substantially increase the risk of overdose.

Special risks for the elderly:

The ageing process is often associated with a range of social, psychological and health problems. Many of these are risk factors for substance misuse among older persons, and may in turn be aggravated by substance use.

Social problems among older people may arise from bereavement, social isolation, lack of social support, and financial difficulties. Psychological problems may include depression, loneliness, anxiety, memory problems, cognitive impairment, dementia and confusion. Physical problems may include lack of mobility, falls, reduced self-care and general ill-health.

Ageing carries an increasing risk of painful medical conditions, and the vast majority of older persons report having recently experienced some sort of pain. This may lead to the development or continuation of improper use of substances (including alcohol) to help cope with pain because of their sort-term analgesic effects. For example, pain is sometimes given as a reason for therapeutic cannabis use.

As chronic drug users grow older, many will develop serious and terminal illnesses and some may turn to psychoactive substances to cope. Special issues are raised by the need to provide palliative care for terminally ill drug users. This is a major challenge for medical professionals and healthcare services. Little is known about how best to meet the needs of this end-of-life population.

Identification and assessment:

Because health problems are highly prevalent among older substance-using adults, many of them have regular contact with medical services. Primary care and other healthcare services therefore provide a valuable opportunity to screen this group.

However, despite their regular contact with healthcare professionals, substance use disorders among older persons are often missed or misdiagnosed. Many doctors lack adequate training in this field and current diagnostic criteria for assessing dependence and addiction in older adults may be unsatisfactory.

Also, common co-morbid conditions seen in older adults (e.g. cognitive impairment) can make screening more difficult, and some co-morbid conditions (e.g. agitation, confusion) may be antecedents or consequences of substance use.

Older adults may also not admit their problem because of the stigma it brings with it among this age group. Improved assessment of substance use disorders among older adults may therefore require age-specific measures of use and dependence. Also, a clearer distinction may be required between different types of substance use to take into account a range of behavioural and clinical manifestations. Later onset use may have fewer or different dependence characteristics.

Simple improved screening procedures could be implemented through adequate monitoring of repeated prescriptions and/or prescription of multiple medications. Screening and assessment questionnaires could be specifically developed to target the needs and problems of older people.

Treatment: interventions and services

The realities of demographic change and the increasing service needs of ageing drug users are placing a financial strain on existing resources. Inaction itself incurs costs and may even lead to greater costs because of subsequent crises. Overall expenditure for this older age group may be reduced by providing timely, effective interventions in appropriate settings.

As already expressed, greater attention should be paid to co-morbid health problems when dealing with older patients. Older drug users may, for example, have chronic illnesses, including liver disease because of chronic hepatitis C infection, or HIV-related illnesses, and may therefore require specialised forms of treatment.

Addiction services typically have limited medical treatment resources. Substance use programmes for older adults should be able to provide basic-level medical services and, where sever or complex health problems are identified, provide referral to specialist medical services.

Detoxification services may be best conducted in a medical setting to avoid potential interactions between medications and other substances, or because of co-morbid illnesses. Different dose regimes may be required because of age-related metabolic changes.

Many therapeutic issues are poorly understood regarding ageing drug users. However, older patients do achieve equivalent or better results than younger adults when they enter treatment. Older citizens should have access to effective healthcare services where they will be catered for with dignity and sensitivity. This may require developing a wider range and alternatives to current treatment.

(Source: Drugs in Focus (Number 18) Briefing of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction

www.emcdda.uropa.eu ).

The Dangers Of Abusing Solvents

29 Apr

The Dangers of Abusing Solvents

By J. P. Anderson

Most of those who try sniffing only try it once or, at the most, a few times.

This kind of solvent sniffing is generally labelled ‘experimental’.

 Some (perhaps one in one hundred youngsters) may use solvents over a longer period, perhaps for several months.

Because these youngsters may use solvents regularly and often with a small group of others, they are often referred to as ‘recreational’ users.

Those who use over an even longer period, say for a year or more, are often labelled ‘dependent’ users. Their use of solvents frequently has the hallmarks of dependence, such as an unwillingness to do without the substance under any circumstances, a heavy and regular use of solvents and, mostly, the presence of pre-existing social or psychological difficulties, which the continued use of solvents may represent an attempt to solve. Sometimes these dependent or long-term users will form part of a group of sniffers, probably about the same age, who have been sniffing together for many years. Often, however, particularly in rural areas, there will be a few single and isolated individuals who sniff alone.

Who are long-term ‘sniffers’?

Since most sniffers try out sniffing for the first time in their early teens, most long-term sniffers will be in their early twenties. However, there is now evidence both of extremely long-term sniffers approaching their thirties, who have sniffed ever since they were, say, thirteen years old and, of older sniffers who have taken up the practice in later life, perhaps in response to shortage of cash to buy alcohol or other, more expensive, drugs. As with other forms of drug use, published information gives the impression that long-term sniffers are most often male, but this may simply be another aspect of the problem of the hidden female drug user.

Certainly, evidence from recent questionnaire surveys shows that as many girls as boys have tried sniffing. Although it is possible that a few young women carry on sniffing for long periods; research shows that far fewer women die sniffing-related deaths. In 1997, 76.7% of recorded VSA deaths were males.

Hazards

Sniffing solvents may cause intoxication similar to the effects of alcohol. So a sniffer may become drowsy, confused, and aggressive, may take more risks than they would when sober, and so on. Accidents are, therefore, quite common and sometimes death results. Deaths related to solvent sniffing have become a significant cause of death of young males. Over half of the deaths, which have been linked to solvent sniffing, appear to result from the direct toxic effects of the chemicals, which were sniffed; but other deaths result from accidents, choking on vomit or suffocation.

Deaths are often sudden, and often a mechanism of death involving cardiac arrest appears to be the cause. Deaths such as these have been dubbed "sudden sniffing deaths". Long-term users may have built up a tolerance and use much larger quantities than experimental users, but it does not appear especially likely that long-term users are more vulnerable to death, indeed, 37% of VSA deaths in 1997 were attributed to first-time experimentation.

Characteristics

Long term sniffing is characterised by a habitual and often ritualistic use of solvents. Generally, the same type of product and the same brand name is always used and myths about the effectiveness and safety of the chosen product must develop.

Most reports of long-term sniffers have been written about white males. There is little evidence of substantially different patterns of solvent abuse among minority ethnic groups in the UK, although the little evidence there is supports the idea that such groups are less likely to sniff solvents.

Other effects

Deaths are not the only problem associated with solvent abuse.

Various other health effects have been noted. Some of the reports of detrimental health effects are based on studies of individuals who have been exposed to solvents in industrial settings. But these are not immediately applicable to solvent sniffers. Industrial exposure may occur over many years at concentrations lower than those achieved by abusers, and industrial workers are generally older than the average long-term solvent sniffer. Industrial workers can be exposed to a variety of chemicals, so that the interaction between these may alter or even potentiate the effects. Many of the reports of damage accruing from solvent sniffing are merely anecdotal, but there are also case reports in medical journals based on evidence from only one, or in some cases, just a few individuals. In these reports, there have been suggestions of kidney and liver failure or damage associated with the use of solvents, as well as indications of particular sorts of mental impairment such as: hearing loss, slurred speech, memory loss, attention deficits, perceptual problems (for example, particular visual deficits), and loss of inhibitory control over certain behaviours (for example, increased impulsivity). There have also been problems with the use of anaesthetics with youngsters who have previously sniffed; and there has been some suggestion of a syndrome similar to foetal alcohol syndrome in babies born to solvent-using mothers.

Zur and Yule found a clear association between chronic solvent sniffing and depression in their study of 12 sniffers. An extensive survey of the subject by Dr. Maria Ron (published in 1986) criticised many studies of solvent users for their poor matching controls and failure to distinguish between acute and chronic effects. Dr. Ron concludes that the evidence for permanent structural brain damage remains inconclusive.

The impairments mentioned have been found to effect particular individuals. It may be that certain people are more vulnerable to the effects of certain chemicals than others. Encouragingly, such problems do not emerge in studies of sniffers conducted on a larger scale. For example, of 300 sniffers who attended a Glasgow clinic, none had any serious health problems as a result of their solvent misuse.

In a more recent study, Oliver Chadwick carried out a study of sniffers identified through a questionnaire survey of secondary schools in London. He found that on a test of IQ there were deficits among solvent users on both verbal IQ and full-scale IQ of about 5 points. In addition, there was a difference on a vocabulary test and on a measure of impulsivity (the ability to withhold an inappropriate response). There were also marked differences between sniffers and non-sniffers in their exam performance. However, after parental occupational status, family size and the pupils’ scores on educational tests (administered at the time of transfer from primary to secondary school at age ten or eleven and therefore pre-dating the start of the pupils’ solvent sniffing) were taken into account, the deficits on the four measures which previously had shown impairment among the solvent abusers were no longer statistically significant. Although few of the users in this study were long-term, the findings do suggest that the frequency and intensity of solvent use normally encountered among secondary school pupils is unlikely to result in brain damage.

Boy 13 In Coma Following Petrol Sniffing Horror Accident

29 Apr

Cork: Boy 13 in Coma Following Alleged

Petrol Sniffing Horror Accident

By J. P. Anderson

THE 13-year-old Cork boy who sustained burns to 42% of his body in a petrol-sniffing incident on Sunday evening was in a stable condition in a Dublin hospital last night.
According to Gardaí, Ciaran Callanan from Mount Nebo Avenue in Gurranabraher was among a group of up six youths aged between 13 to 16 sniffing petrol from a plastic bottle. The bottle was being burnt with a cigarette lighter to create fumes.
It is thought the heat became too much and the bottle exploded, showering the youth

in burning petrol.

The accident happened on open ground by Mount St Joseph’s Avenue, Gurranabraher, at approximately 9pm on Sunday.
Local resident Paul Collins heard the boy screaming and, when he saw what was happening, grabbed a fire blanket and fire extinguisher from his car and put out the flames.
Mr Collins, a taxi driver, was too distressed to talk about the ordeal last night.
The 13 year-old’s family have strenuously denied that the young boy was sniffing the petrol.
His godfather Patrick Murphy said Ciaran and his friends had been playing with an 18-inch high motorbike at the time.
He said the group of children were transporting petrol into the machine from three plastic bottles when the flame of a cigarette lit the petrol in Ciaran’s hand and sent flames shooting through his nylon tracksuit.
He said the boy suffered major burns to his stomach, chest and thighs. He underwent surgery in Cork University Hospital yesterday morning before being transferred to Dublin. Mr Murphy said it is expected he will be kept in an induced coma for weeks.
“I am not saying he has not sniffed petrol in the past, but we were talking to him last night and he told us he was not sniffing it in the three to four hours before this happened,” said Mr Murphy. “He was playing with the motorbike which belonged to another child.”
While gardaí said they had not found the small machine at the scene, Mr Murphy said he had seen it.
Local residents said there had been noise for some time on Sunday evening and they had called gardaí.
One woman said when she heard even more noise outside she presumed gardaí had arrived, but when she looked outside she saw the young man running shrouded in flames.
Local councillor Chris O’Leary praised local resident Paul Collins for his swift actions in dousing the flames.
“The quick action of Paul has to be commended, because this could have been a lot worse as the other young people were too stunned to be able to do anything,” he said.
“There have been community policing forums in a number of parts of the city in recent weeks and it has been commented on that there has been a shift among younger people to sniffing petrol and other substances. The place where this happened had been actually flagged previously by residents as a place where this sort of thing was going on.”

Magic Mushrooms Presenting New Challenges

28 Apr

Magic Mushrooms Presenting New Challenges

By J. P. Anderson

Hallucinogenic mushrooms: the challenge of responding to naturally occurring substances in an electronic age

, the briefing raises questions such as: ‘How to effectively regulate such a complex group of naturally occurring products?’ ‘How to apply controls when they are promoted and sold globally via the Internet?’ and ‘What can be done when regulatory actions may simply result in suppliers switching to alternative and possibly even more damaging products?’

Hallucinogenic mushrooms (commonly known as ‘magic mushrooms’) grow wild in many parts of Europe, but the information available suggests that most of those used for their psychoactive properties are cultivated. Naturally occurring hallucinogens (1) can be found in over 100 species of mushroom, most of which contain psilocybin and psilocin (or psilotsin) as the main active ingredients responsible for the hallucinogenic effect.

Although these two active ingredients are controlled under the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, some countries were initially unsure how to classify mushrooms containing these agents. This confusion has been exploited by retailers and has thwarted efforts to control supply.

Recent changes in legislation

Since 2001, six EU countries have tightened controls on psilocybin- or psilocin-containing mushrooms in response to concerns regarding prevalence of use: Denmark (2001), the Netherlands (2002), Germany, Estonia, UK (2005) and Ireland (2006). But law-making on this topic has been complicated.

Legislators in Ireland and the UK for example, not wishing to unjustly prosecute those on whose land such mushrooms grow wild, outlawed them when ‘treated or prepared’ (indicating intent of use). Similarly, in the Netherlands, these mushrooms were placed under control when ‘dried or processed’. However, such legal loopholes led to ‘smart shops’ simply selling the fresh variety.

The UK changed its legislation in 2005 and now controls psilocybin- or psilocin-containing mushrooms with no mention of their state. On the premise that a mushroom is not strictly a ‘plant’, the German law was amended in 2005 to prohibit the cultivation or sale of ‘organic’ substances from which narcotic substances can be extracted, thus closing any possible loophole for fungi.

In some countries, stricter legislation is helping to prevent diffusion of the trend. Reports in the UK, for example, suggest it has had an impact on the availability of this variety of mushroom and the overall volume of Internet sales. But these new controls may only be partially effective as retailers switch to the sale of legal alternatives such as some species of Amanita mushrooms (e.g. Amanita muscaria/’fly agaric’ and Amanita pantherina), which can be more toxic than the psilocybin- or psilocin-containing variety and can cause fatal poisoning.

Today’s briefing states that: ‘Although strengthening legal control measures may be an approach to limiting the use and availability of hallucinogenic mushrooms, the impact of any measures needs to be carefully monitored both to assess their effectiveness and to avoid the risk of unintended negative consequences.’

Health risks and prevention

The number of fatal and non-fatal emergencies related to the use of psilocybin- or psilocin-containing mushrooms use is very low. Generally physical effects are short-lived and not significant (e.g. dizziness, nausea, shivering), although more pronounced symptoms have also been recorded (e.g. severe stomach pain, persistent vomiting).

Users tend to contact emergency services due to mental health effects such as ‘bad trips’. In such cases, intoxicated individuals are usually severely agitated, confused and disoriented, with impaired concentration and judgment. In serious cases, acute psychotic episodes may occur, including severe paranoia and total loss of reality, which may lead to accidents, self-injury or suicide attempts. User accounts of unpredictable potency, bad taste and negative effects may all contribute to limiting their recreational or repeated use.

Drug prevention programmes often provide information on hallucinogenic drugs alongside other drug information but, as yet, there appears to be a gap in the provision of prevention materials relating exclusively to magic mushroom use and similarly in materials available for professionals working with young people. On this note, the briefing states that: ‘The Internet allows increasing opportunities for promoting and selling hallucinogenic mushrooms, but also for providing information about health risks’.

Notes

(1) The hallucinogens are a chemically diverse class of drugs that are characterised by their ability to produce

distortions in sensations and to markedly alter mood and thought processes.

On 26 June 2006 the EMCDDA released a report ‘Hallucinogenic mushrooms: an emerging trend case study’, as the first in a series to be published under the EMCDDA pilot project to help detect, track and understand emerging drug trends in Europe (‘European Perspectives On Drugs’/E-POD).

The report is available at

http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/?nnodeid=7079.

See news release No2/2006 at

http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/?nnodeid=24055

A further EMCDDA study on the ‘Legal status of hallucinogenic mushrooms’ is available, see ‘Topic overviews’ at

http://eldd.emcdda.europa.eu

(Source: Drugs In Focus: Briefing of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction: www.emcdda.europa.eu ).

Zimbabwe: Newspaper Calls For Transitional Government

23 Apr

Newspaper Calls for Transitional Zimbabwe Government

By J. P. Anderson

 

UPDATE: Addition.

POST-ELECTION violence in Zimbabwe could reach genocidal proportions without intervention from the international community, the country’s church leaders warned yesterday.
“We warn the world that if nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other hot spots in Africa and elsewhere,” leaders of all denominations said in a joint statement.
“We appeal to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union and the United Nations to work towards arresting the deteriorating political and security situation in Zimbabwe,” the statement said.
A recount of ballots is under way in Zimbabwe in the wake of the March 29 parliamentary and presidential elections, amid allegations that long-time leader Robert Mugabe, 84, is trying to steal the outcome and cling to power.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says 10 of its members have so far been killed by pro-Mugabe militias — a claim strongly disputed by the ruling ZANU-PF party.
“Organised violence perpetrated against individuals, families and communities who are accused of campaigning or voting for the ‘wrong’ political party… has been unleashed throughout the country,” the church statement said.
“People are being abducted, tortured, humiliated, and ordered to attend mass meetings where they are told they voted for the ‘wrong’ candidate.”
The statement called for voter intimidation to stop.
It also said there was “widespread famine” in Zimbabwe’s countryside.

HARARE – Regional countries should mediate negotiations in Zimbabwe for a transitional government of national unity led by President Robert Mugabe to organise new elections that are free, a state newspaper said on Wednesday.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Mugabe’s ZANU-PF are locked in an election stalemate over delayed parliamentary results and a possible presidential runoff that has raised fears of widespread violence.

The editorial on The Herald’s website said political tensions make it impossible to hold a run-off, which the MDC rejects.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said he won the election outright and accused Mugabe of seeking a run-off to rig victory in the biggest challenge to his 28-year rule.

Tsvangirai has appealed to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and foreign powers to intervene to guarantee a democratic poll result and prevent widespread violence.

There are signs of growing regional impatience with Mugabe from neighbours who have refused to take a hard line with the former liberation hero despite an economic crisis that has brought millions of Zimbabweans to their knees.

Maritime southern African states refused to allow a Chinese ship carrying arms to landlocked Zimbabwe to unload, in unprecedented action towards Mugabe by long-passive neighbours, including traditional allies.

The action indicated a tougher response by the region, which has been criticised, particularly by the United States, for not doing more to end a three-week delay in issuing results from a presidential election on March 29.

In his toughest comments yet, South African ruling party leader Jacob Zuma said in a Reuter’s interview in Berlin.

"It’s not acceptable. It’s not helping the Zimbabwean people who have gone out to … elect the kind of party and presidential candidate they want, exercising their constitutional right."

Zuma, who has distanced himself from the "quiet diplomacy" of South African President Thabo Mbeki over Zimbabwe, added: "I imagine that the leaders in Africa should really move in to unlock this logjam."

His comments were one factor helping to lift the rand currency to a seven-week high against the dollar. Traders welcomed Zuma’s readiness to take a lead on Zimbabwe after concern the crisis would hit Africa’s biggest economy.

NATIONAL REFERENDUM

The Herald, seen as a barometer of the official mood, said a transitional government should seek the help of the SADC and the international community to write a new constitution adopted after a national referendum.

"It stands to reason that, the transitional government of national unity, negotiated by the two leading contending parties, under the mediation of SADC, supported by the international community, should be led by the incumbent president," it said.

The MDC deprived Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party of its majority in parliament in a parallel vote on March 29 but there has also been a delay to a partial recount of votes from that poll.

The recount could overturn the MDC victory. The opposition and Western governments say it is merely another ploy by Mugabe to steal back the election. The Herald said ZANU-PF retained one of the 23 seats being recounted.

Tsvangirai called for African leaders to acknowledge that he won the vote, saying Mugabe would be allowed an honourable exit.

Africa’s reputation would suffer "serious disrepute" if Mugabe stayed in power, Tsvangirai said in Accra.

Tensions have been rising on the ground as Tsvangirai tours the region seeking help in pushing aside Mugabe; a wily leader who critics say has used ruthless security crackdowns and a vast patronage system to keep a tight grip on power.

The MDC has accused ZANU-PF of killing 10 of its members and rounding up hundreds, charges denied by the ruling party.

The Herald said police have handled over 75 cases of political violence carried out by suspected MDC supporters.

The editorial called on both sides to compromise.

"The peace and security of Zimbabwe, that it has enjoyed since independence, is at great risk," it said.

"Whilst the ruling party must stop behaving like a wounded buffalo, the opposition party must stop its hysterics and lapses into delusion."

Zimbabwe: Britain Attacks Mugabe Over Election

21 Apr

Britain Attacks Mugabe Over Election

By J. P. Anderson

LONDON – The government accused President Robert Mugabe on Monday of trying to steal Zimbabwe’s election and of unleashing a campaign of violence against people who had voted against him.

In Britain’s most outspoken criticism of the disputed March 29 election, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the world could be witnessing a "charade of democracy" in Zimbabwe.

He urged African leaders to do more to resolve the crisis, saying "democratic legitimacy throughout Africa is at stake."

If Mugabe did not listen to them, Africans and their organisations should stop recognising his government, he said.

"The constitutional crisis in Zimbabwe continues as President Mugabe persists in his ambition to steal the election," Miliband said in a written statement to parliament.

"President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party have unleashed a campaign of violence against those ordinary Zimbabweans, 60 percent of them, who in spite of everything voted against him," Miliband said.

Zimbabwe announced a delay on Sunday in a partial recount of the votes, extending a deadlock in which the opposition says 10 of its members have been killed and hundreds arrested.

The recount could overturn the results of the parliamentary election, which showed Mugabe’s ZANU-PF losing its majority to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for the first time.

"No one can have any faith in this recount," Miliband said.

Results of the parallel presidential election have not been released, but MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he has won.

Tsvangirai met U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of a U.N. conference in Ghana on Monday to discuss the crisis.

ACTIVISTS IN COURT

Some 28 opposition activists appeared in court in Harare on Monday on public order charges during an abortive general strike last week against the delay in issuing results.

Alec Muchadehama, a lawyer for the MDC, said they had been kept in jail much longer than the statutory 48 hours before appearing in court.

"We brought it to the court’s attention that all of them have been unlawfully detained before being charged, some from last Tuesday, others from Wednesday and others from Thursday," he said.

He said some had been assaulted by police and soldiers when they were arrested. All were remanded in custody.

Britain was working with states in the region and other countries to resolve the crisis, Miliband said, but he said African states were best placed to put pressure on Mugabe.

He welcomed calls from the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for the presidential results to be released but said it was important African leaders did more to engage directly in the crisis.

Thabo Mbeki, president of regional power South Africa, and other regional leaders have faced accusations of being too soft on Zimbabwe.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, chairman of the AU, voiced concern on Monday about the delay in announcing the presidential election results.

"We’ll send delegations to talk to the authorities" to press for the release of the results, he told a news conference in Dar Es Salaam. "We are working within AU and SADC to ensure that the will of the Zimbabwean people is respected," he said.

Mugabe has hit back at past criticism from Britain, accusing the former colonial ruler last week of paying the population to turn against him.

Please Copy.

Zimbabwe At War ‘Claim’

20 Apr

MDC Claims Zimbabwe Is At ‘War’

By J. P. Anderson

Zimbabwe is "in a war situation",

says the general secretary of the main Zimbabwean opposition party, the MDC.

At a news conference in Johannesburg, Tendai Biti claimed 10 people had been killed since disputed elections on 29 March and thousands had been displaced.

The governing Zanu-PF party has not commented on these latest accusations, but has so far denounced all of the opposition’s claims as lies.

Three weeks after polls were held, the presidential result is still unknown.

A partial recount of votes is under way in 23 constituencies which election officials say could take more than three days to complete.

But Mr Biti called the recount "mendacious and illegal", and said there was evidence of tampering with the ballot boxes – an accusation the government rejects.

UN effort

Earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he would hold talks on Zimbabwe with a number of African leaders on the sidelines of a UN summit in Ghana.

Mr Ban said he and the leaders at the talks in Accra would discuss "how to get developments there back to normal".

He was speaking hours after Kofi Annan, his predecessor, and urged African leaders to do more to address the crisis.

The opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai insists he won the presidential vote outright, and has demanded that the results be released.

The parliamentary vote was won by his MDC party.

But the election commission is recounting ballots in 23 of 210 constituencies – which could overturn the result that saw President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF lose its majority for the first time since independence in 1980.

It is thought the recount may also lead to a run-off vote in the presidential poll.

Mr Tsvangirai, who is adamant he won the election outright, has fled the country, saying he fears for his life.

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