Zimbabwe power-sharing deal struck
Thursday 11 September 2008
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has agreed to share power with the opposition after more than two decades as the country's unchallenged leader.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, who mediated the deal, did not immediately offer details. He said the agreement would be signed and made public on Monday. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had told reporters the parties "have got a deal."
Mbeki has been in Zimbabwe since Monday trying to resolve the impasse over who would wield the most authority in a unity government.
For a year before that, he had been trying to bring Mugabe and Tsvangirai closer together, insisting — despite accusations he was biased toward Mugabe — that his policy of refusing to confront or publicly criticize either party was the best approach.
But others, including African leaders traditionally reluctant to criticize one of their own, had been increasingly impatient with Mugabe, who was accused of trampling on Zimbabwean's political rights and ruining the economy of what had once been the region's breadbasket. Neighboring countries coping with Zimbabwean refugees had been among the sharpest critics.
Tsvangirai's party won the most votes in legislative and presidential elections in March, but he did not win enough to avoid a runoff against Mugabe. An onslaught of state-sponsored violence against Tsvangirai's supporters forced him to drop out of the presidential runoff.
Mugabe kept Tsvangirai's name on the ballot and was declared the overwhelming winner of a runoff that was widely denounced as a sham.
Citing the March results, Tsvangirai says he should be head of government and preside over Cabinet meetings, while Mugabe should be relegated to a ceremonial position. Mugabe had shown little willingness to relinquish much power.
Much of Mugabe's popularity at home and across the continent is linked to his image as a proud African leader unafraid to defy the West. Tsvangirai, who lacks Mugabe's anti-colonial credentials, has said Zimbabwe needs to work with the West to overcome its economic and political crises.
A political settlement will free the leaders to address Zimbabwe's severe economic problems — which include having the world's highest inflation rate and chronic food and fuel shortages.
Foreign investors have been wary because of the political uncertainty. Western governments are poised to help with grants and loans, but will not deal with Mugabe, who they denounce as a dictator.
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