Harare — An influx of Western observers is giving Zimbabweans some hope that this month’s elections won’t be a repeat of the tainted contests held during former president Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule. Although Zimbabwe’s past three elections were marred by allegations of rigging, violence and intimidation, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has welcomed the return of monitors from Western nations, the governments of which were more critical of Mugabe than teams from African countries. He’s vowed that the July 30 vote would be free and fair — a key to start rebuilding the nation’s reputation and an economy battered by years of misrule. "It’s good there are observers from outside Africa this time," said George Rusere, an unemployed 23-year-old in the northern town of Guruve. "In the past only African nations or countries friendly with Mugabe were allowed and they whitewashed election after election to keep their friend in power. Maybe this time it’ll be different." Election violence peaked ...

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