Zimbabwe rivals sign power-sharing deal

Posted in Africa | 16-Sep-08 | Author: Celia W. Dugger and Alan Cowel| Source: International Herald Tribune

Arthur Mutambara, an opposition leader, left; President Robert Mugabe; the main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai; and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa signed a power-sharing deal Monday in Harare.

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, Tsvangirai said the agreement "sees the return of hope to all our lives."

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

Opposition supporters at the ceremony in a Harare hotel celebrated the signing, but Western diplomats said they were still waiting to see a text of the deal to see how power is to be divided.

The arrangement was reached after weeks of negotiations that opened in July. The negotiations followed a season of contested elections, scarred by bloodletting and intimidation, for which the opposition blamed the government.

Tsvangirai claimed victory in the first round of elections in March. But he boycotted a presidential runoff in June, citing political violence, leaving Mugabe as the sole candidate.

Despite the violence and bad feelings between the sides, the sight of Mugabe, 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.

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, 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."

Tsvangirai said in his remarks that it was time for Zimbabwe to open up to international donors - Britain and the United States among them.

The full details of the agreement were unclear. Introducing the signatories, Mbeki called Mugabe president, Tsvangirai prime minister and Mutambara deputy prime minister.

Tsvanigrai has sought control of the police, which he says he believes were involved in a campaign of violence against his supporters during the election.

Talking about the negotiations that led to the agreement, Mugabe 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 percent, the new government in Zimbabwe is likely to need huge financial support from some of those outside powers Mugabe blamed so virulently for his country's 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," Miliband said in a statement. "If it does so, Britain and the rest of the international community will be quick to support them."

Alan Cowell reported from Paris.