HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe's longtime president has praised his security forces while warning against violent protests, days after the police crushed an anti-government march in the capital, Harare.
President Robert Mugabe spoke Monday at a commemoration event notable for the absence of some of his previously loyal wartime allies.
The commemorations are held annually to honor the southern African country's dead heroes, particularly those who fought in the 1970s independence war.
Leaders of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, who broke away from the 92-year-old president in July, boycotted the event. Mugabe did not directly address the veterans.
Instead, he warned the opposition and civil rights activists against continuing with a wave of protests that have hit the once prosperous but now economically struggling former British colony. The latest came on Saturday, when demonstrators used a cricket match against New Zealand to speak out. They waved the national flag and sang the national anthem during the 36th over to protest the 36 years that Mugabe has been in power.
"I heard Tsvangirai calling for a coalition as the only way to unseat the government ... protests don't pay because they usually end up being violent. How does it help to go on the streets just to show that you can throw stones, stoning the police?" Mugabe said in the local Shona language.
Morgan Tsvangirai leads the main opposition MDC-T party that has been holding countrywide protests.
Mugabe, who received public backing from commanders of the army in the past week, commended the security forces "for the calm that has been, the peace that has been."