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By Morgan Tsvangirai

TODAY marks the 45th Anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, now known as the African Union.

It is a day that we must think of ourselves not just as Zimbabweans, but as Africans, with a common history of liberation and emancipation. It is a day that we must ask ourselves what is our role on the continent as Africans?

For too long, Zimbabwe has been isolated, first from the international community and now from the African community, due to the policies of intolerance and repression imposed upon us by Robert Mugabe. For too, long we have suffered under the burden of economic hardship and poverty as a result of misguided policies.

For too long our potential to contribute to the community of nations has been wasted because of the regime's wanton disregard for the rule of law and disrespect for the dignity of our people. These policies have now begun to impact the region, with horrific xenophobic attacks – Africans killing Africans. Tragically, many Zimbabweans who had to flee violence at home, now face new violence in South Africa. These poorest of the poor feel betrayed, isolated and alone -- now with nowhere to go.

We hope and pray that this madness will cease, and that our country's era of isolation will soon end. MDC's historic victory on March 29th, will result in a new era in Zimbabwe. An era where freedoms will be restored, the economy will be rebuilt and our peoples will be healed.

Our victory again on June 27 will not only empower us to reach our full potential as citizens of this great nation, but will finally free us to realize our full potential as an equal nation of this great continent.

Although the regime has tried to punish people for their votes on 29 March, next month Zimbabweans will again join together and vote for change. By standing up to tyranny, by refusing to be silenced by oppression, by refusing to allow our futures and those of our children to be betrayed once again, the Zimbabwean people on 27 June will finally be liberated once again.

In the past eight weeks more and more African countries have come to stand alongside us in our fight for democratic freedoms. Many of our African brothers and sisters now acknowledge that what has happened in Zimbabwe does not resemble anything like the hope and freedom first promised in 1980.

We all know that our election process has been an embarrassment to Africa. We appreciate the words of support and commitment of our African brothers and sisters to assist the Zimbabwean people to hold an election on 27 June that peacefully and fairly represents their will for change.

When we release ourselves from this oppression at the end of June, when the world realises that our African brothers and sisters assisted us with this struggle, it will be a victory not only for each and every peace loving Zimbabwean, but for the continent as well. For we will have shown the world how Africans can overcome brutality, not with guns and violence, but with unity, courage and an unwavering belief in our right to be free in a democracy that we have built for ourselves.

My fellow Zimbabweans, the coming weeks will not be easy. Those who fight against freedom and democracy know that their days are numbered. They know that a new era of democratic governance is about to begin. We welcome them to change their ways and join our ranks.

The time is now to work together to transform Zimbabwe into the peaceful and prosperous nation we dreamed of in 1980. We tasted freedom then, and we will never stop resisting oppression until we and our children have freedom again.

My fellow Zimbabweans, the day that we take our rightful place as a proud member of the African family of nations is upon us.

May God Bless Africa.

I thank you.

Morgan Tsvangirai is leader of the Movement for Democratic Change
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