Thursday, September 18, 2008

Surprise! Power-sharing talks deadlock in Zimbabwe

Why is Robert Mugabe still president of Zimbabwe? It should be obvious to everybody, especially South African President Thabo Mbeki, the regional mediator, that Mugabe is simply not going to compromise in good faith with prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai for the good of the country. That this government crisis soap opera is still continuing, six months after Mugabe's party lost control of Zimbabwe's parliament in an election marked by violence and threats by supporters of the government, shows that no deal will be possible until Mugabe leaves office. The latest deadlock occurred Thursday, when Mugabe and Tsvangirai met to decide on cabinet ministers. It was their first meeting since Mugabe ostensibly agreed Monday to share power with Tsvangirai in a coalition government negotiated with the help of South African President Thabo Mbeki, according to the Reuters international news service. The agreement was apparently an effort to duplicate a power-sharing deal that helped settle a similar election dispute that evolved into ethnic conflict in Kenya. But Mugabe's commitment to the deal is tenuous at best, and he cannot be trusted to fulfill his obligations. The one-time national hero, who distinguished himself in Zimbabwe's struggle for independence from Great Britian in 1980, has presided over the collapse of his country's once-powerful economy. Inflation is running at 11 million percent in Zimbabwe and millions of citizens have fled to neighboring countries. But Mugabe has since denounced the deal as a "humiliation" in subsequent talks with his supporters. Under the terms of Monday's agreement, Mugabe's ZANU-PF party would control 15 of the government's 31 ministries, Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party would appoint 13 ministers and Arthur Mutambara's breakaway MDC faction would control three ministries.

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