Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Monday warned frustration among jobless youths could spark violent protests as the country prepares to vote on a new constitution, five years after deadly elections.
“Youth unemployment and under-employment present one of the biggest challenges facing the nation, which if not addressed, is a potential threat to national peace and stability,” Mugabe told about 5,000 people at a memorial for fallen liberation leaders.
“I wish to urge all Zimbabweans, all political parties, religious groups, civil society and other institutions to desist from engaging in violent campaigns during the elections,” Mugabe said in the capital Harare.
“Let us fully embrace peaceful, tolerant and non-violent ways of campaigning before, during and after the actual conduct of elections.”
Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate stands at 90 percent — most of them young people — as local industry battles to recover from a decade-long economic crisis.
Representatives of Zimbabwe’s rival political parties last month finalised a draft constitution which now must go to voters for approval. If endorsed, the charter would pave the way toward new polls.
Mugabe and his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, have shared power in a rocky unity government after disputed elections in 2008.
Violence, often blamed on militant youths, left more than 200 dead after the polls, rights groups said. Most of the victims were opposition supporters.