Police lead detained supporters of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change onto a bus after a raid on the party's headquarters in Harare on June 23, 2008. (Associated Press)

In a Nairobi hotel lobby, Silas Gweshe flips through pages and pages of gruesome photographs. They detail gunshot wounds, machete wounds, broken arms and legs, bruised and swollen faces and limbs and homes burned to the ground.

"They keep on beating people in the whole constituency," Gweshe says, "beating and beating, some seriously, with broken bones. So we were kept busy bringing people to Harare because there is no medication in the rural areas. People are beaten and left for dead."

The pictures, several dozen, are of his supporters. Gweshe was a candidate for the opposition party, Movement of Democratic Change (MDC), in a rural constituency east of the capital.

He estimates that 400 MDC supporters have been attacked by pro-government ZANU-PF militias in his constituency in the last three months. Human rights activists confirm that similar figures, or worse, are true in all 210 constituencies in Zimbabwe.

The death toll in the pre-election violence across the country is pushing toward 100. Human rights groups say tens of thousands more have been forced from their homes, and thousands beaten by pro-Mugabe militias.

"District by district, throughout the whole country, they have names of people they want to kill and maim," Gweshe says.

Supporters killed, beaten

Gweshe lost to the ZANU-PF candidate in the parliamentary election in March, but that wasn't enough to save him. His home was firebombed, the crops on his farm were burned. His 78-year-old father's farm was also destroyed, the old man was beaten so badly he couldn't walk. Gweshe's wife and children are in hiding. He's been on the run since April.

Two of his supporters have been killed. One was a teacher near retirement age.

"The teacher wasn't an open activist because he was a civil servant," Gweshe, 38, explains. "He was denouncing the government because of the economic crisis. He was kidnapped and he was killed. His private parts were removed and his eyes. He was dumped along the highway to Harare."

Gweshe came to Nairobi with three other Zimbabwean activists. With the foreign media banned from entering the country, this is the only way they can find to get their message out.

The foreign media may be banned, but the local press is under siege. Reporters are arrested daily. Frank Chikowore is one of the four Zimbabweans visiting Nairobi. A freelance broadcast journalist, he explains how he spent 17 days in prison in May.

"For the first seven days in the police station, I was denied access to food, denied access to water, denied access to lawyers and my relatives," he says. "What I went through was mental torture."

Chikowore's only offence was to cover an emergency meeting in neighbouring Zambia of southern African leaders discussing the Zimbabwe crisis.

Four million starving

But its not only physical violence and threats that Zimbabweans are facing. Under Mugabe, the economy has gone into freefall. Inflation is staggering and there are shortages of just about everything.

The Zimbabwe dollar was once at par with the U.S. dollar. It is now almost worthless. Zimbabwe human rights activist Gorden Moyo pulls a 25-billion-dollar note from his pocket.

He explains that this is enough to take a bus to town and buy a loaf of bread. In a few days time, it won't even be enough for that. Prices go up several times a day. This note will soon have no value.

'The world should not wait until we have another Rwanda, until we have another Sudan or Kenya. It's not necessary.' —Zimbabwe human rights activist Gorden Moyo

Adding to the pain, Mugabe has suspended international aid agencies in the country. With the economy collapsed, four million Zimbabweans now rely on food aid.

"Four million people in Zimbabwe are starving," Moyo says, "there is a serious food shortage in the country, serious poverty. And here is the government, here is the president saying there shouldn't be any food [aid] distribution. This is targeted at the ordinary people who are viewed as voting for the opposition and they are being punished."

Moyo thinks in doing this, Mugabe has gone too far.

"This is going to work against Mr. Mugabe," Moyo says, "he is de-campaigning himself. If you deny people food, that basic, basic need, they are going to vote against ZANU-PF."

Mugabe has made clear what will happen if he loses the election.

"We are prepared to fight for our country," Mugabe said last week, "to go to war for it."

Moyo fears what that may mean.

"We are going to have an explosion in that country, an explosion like we have never seen on this continent," he says, "I'm afraid. That should not be allowed. The world should not wait until we have another Rwanda, until we have another Sudan or Kenya. It's not necessary. That can be averted, by isolating Mugabe.

African leaders stand up

Some African leaders have begun to do just that in recent weeks, before MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the June 27 run-off election.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for the election to be cancelled and for UN peacekeepers to be sent into Zimbabwe.

Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, who defeated that country's genocidal regime in 1994, delivered withering criticism of Mugabe's actions, while Botswana's government called in Zimbabwe's ambassador for a dressing-down over the situation.

Others joined the chorus, including the head of the Pan-African Election observer mission in Zimbabwe, the Tanzanian foreign minister, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

This is bold new territory for Africa's leaders, who can be generally counted on never to criticize their colleagues on the continent. But for many bruised and beaten Zimbabweans, this conversion has come too late.

But is it too late for the other residents of this suffering country?