Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why Can't We Be Friends???

Desmond Kwande/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, second from left, and opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, second from right, signed a power-sharing accord in Harare after weeks of negotiations.

Zimbabwe Rivals Sign Power-Sharing Agreement


September 16, 2008
HARARE, Zimbabwe — After more than 28 years of unbroken power, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe signed an agreement with the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday to divide the responsibilities for running the troubled country.

While many of the pieces of the long-awaited deal remained either unresolved or unannounced, Mr. Tsvangirai said the agreement “sees the return of hope to all our lives.”

Despite questions about how the agreement would be implemented after so much acrimony and hostility between the two men, Mr. Mugabe said: “We are committed to the deal. We will do our best.”

Opposition supporters at the ceremony in a conference center at a Harare hotel celebrated the signing and were jubilant when Mr. Tsvangirai appeared, hooting and applauding. Among the audience were many opposition workers who had gone into hiding in the run-up to the election in March or been beaten in government-sponsored violence over the last eight years.

Godknows Nyamweda, 36, a local ward councilor here in Harare, rolled up his sleeve to show the scars where he said he had been sliced by a knife.

“I came to make sure my big fishes have not betrayed me and to make sure I’m walking in a free country,” he said.

There was still an undercurrent of fear that that the repression could yet return with a vengeance, and some people were afraid to be quoted by name.

The crowd also repeatedly cheered the presence of Botswana’s president, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, clapping and chanting, “Khama, Khama, Khama.” He has been Mr. Mugabe’s harshest critic in the region, refusing to recognize the legitimacy of his election.

Western diplomats were studying the text of the deal to see how power will actually to be divided. Western nations are wary of pouring billions of dollars into Zimbabwe for its reconstruction unless they are convinced that Mr. Tsvangirai has the authority he needs to change economic policies they believe have been calamitous for the country.

The arrangement was reached after weeks of negotiations that opened in July. The negotiations followed a season of contentious elections, scarred by bloodletting and intimidation, which the opposition blamed on the government. Mr. Tsvangirai claimed victory in the first round of elections in March. But he boycotted a presidential runoff in June, citing political violence, leaving Mr. Mugabe as the sole candidate.

Despite the violence and bad feelings between the two sides, the sight of Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Tsvangirai and a second opposition leader, Arthur Mutambara, clasping hands beside Thabo Mbeki, the South African president who mediated the deal, prompted some participants to suggest that Zimbabwe’s fortunes might have changed after years of autocracy and economic chaos.

Mr. Tsvangirai said a sense of hope “provides the foundation of this agreement that we sign today that will provide us with the belief that we can achieve a new Zimbabwe.”

For his part, Mr. Mugabe seemed far less accommodating, using a speech after the signing ceremony to renew his accusations that Britain, the former colonial power, and the United States were responsible for Zimbabwe’s problems.

“African problems must be solved by Africans,” he said. “The problem we have had is a problem that has been created by former colonial power. Why, why, why the hand of the British? Why, why, why the hand of the Americans here? Let us ask that.”

Mr. Tsvangirai, often labeled an agent for the British in the state media, said in his own remarks that it was time for Zimbabwe to open up to international donors — Britain and the United States among them — who were seeking to feed the multitude of hungry Zimbabweans.

The moment was another milestone in Zimbabwe’s political history.

Almost three decades ago , Mr. Mugabe, leader of the political party that claimed the loyalty of the biggest of two guerrilla armies fighting white minority rule in the country, formerly called Rhodesia, was brought only reluctantly to negotiate a peace deal in 1979 rather than press for a military outcome.

Some years later, Mr. Mugabe struck a unity agreement with a fellow nationalist leader, Joshua Nkomo, that led to Mr. Nkomo’s political eclipse.

Mr. Tsvangirai said his commitment to the agreement showed that “my belief in Zimbabwe and its peoples runs deeper than the scars I bear from the struggle” — a reference to the beatings he received in detention.

The full details of the agreement seemed unclear. Introducing the signatories, Mr. Mbeki, the South African leader who staked much political and diplomatic capital on negotiating the accord, referred to Mr. Mugabe as president, Mr. Tsvangirai as prime minister and Mr. Mutambara as deputy prime minister.

As the two sides have negotiated over power, Mr. Tsvanigrai has sought control of the police, which he believes were involved in a campaign of violence against his supporters during the election.

Mr. Mugabe dwelled in his speech on the role in negotiating a settlement played by Zimbabwe’s neighbors, referring back to the days when a belt of southern African lands bordering the last bastions of white rule in Africa called themselves “frontline” states and supported liberation movements, including those in Zimbabwe.

“They have come to our assistance once again,” he said.

Mr. Mugabe reserved his main credit for the deal for Mr. Mbeki, describing his mediation as “noble work.”

Talking about the negotiations that led to the agreement, Mr. Mugabe also said there were “lots of things in the agreement that I don’t like, and still don’t like.”

However, he said, “we are all Zimbabweans and is there any other road, any other route to follow? History makes us walk the same route.”

With Zimbabwe’s economy virtually collapsed and inflation running at more than 11 million per cent, the new government in Zimbabwe is likely to need huge financial support from some of those outside powers Mr. Mugabe blamed so vehemently for its woes.

And some of those outsiders remained skeptical about the implementation of the agreement.

David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, echoed a European Union statement linking aid to reforms.

“The new government needs to start to rebuild the country,” Mr. Miliband said in a statement. “If it does so, Britain and the rest of the international community will be quick to support them.”

Celia W. Dugger reported from Harare, Zimbabwe, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Graham Bowley contributed reporting from New York.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

No comments: