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Zimbabwe opposition join government

By on January 30, 2009

Zimbabwe’s opposition has committed itself to forming a unity government with President Robert Mugabe, party leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Friday, ending a paralysing deadlock that deepened an economic crisis. Tsvangirai made the announcement after a meeting of the Movement for Democratic Change’s decision-making National Council.

“We are going into this government. That is what the council has decided,” Tsvangirai, who is set to become prime minister, told reporters.
The decision will increase Zimbabwe’s chances of recovering from economic collapse and easing a humanitarian crisis in which more than 60,000 people have been infected by cholera and more than half the population needs food aid.
Zimbabweans have been longing for a new leadership that can ease the world’s highest inflation rate and severe food, fuel and foreign currency shortages. Millions have fled the suffering to neighboring countries, straining regional economies.
Western aid and financial assistance tied to the creation of a democratic government and economic reform will be crucial to rescuing what was once one of Africa’s most promising countries.
“Without the support of those governments, the deal will have major difficulties in really opening the way for a turnaround of the situation in Zimbabwe,” said Mike Davies, Middle East and Africa expert at risk analysts Eurasia Group.
With the local currency almost worthless and the world’s highest inflation rate, the government announced on Thursday it would let Zimbabweans use foreign currencies.
Zimbabwe’s recovery may depend on whether Tsvangirai can work with Mugabe, a master political tactician in power since 1980, who has defied Western sanctions and resisted growing calls to step down.
“I think that it is a clever and strategic decision. There are, however, challenges facing the MDC,” said Adam Habib, political analyst at the University of Johannesburg.
“They have to make sure they can engage in a way that allows them to achieve what they want and that means they have to learn how to engage Mugabe and the people around him,” he said.
REGIONAL CRITICS Regional leaders had piled pressure on both sides to implement the power-sharing deal they signed in September and South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Friday his country was ready to help rebuild Zimbabwe once that happened.
“This stage is really critical in terms of achieving political stability and the first step towards the economic recovery of that country,” Motlanthe told Reuters at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos.
The Sept. 15 power-sharing agreement has been stalled by a dispute over control of key cabinet positions. Tsvangirai’s party feared being sidelined in a joint administration. The country was effectively operating without a government.
Mugabe’s African critics were sceptical.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, a former opposition leader who agreed to share power after post-election violence last year, questioned the deal.
“It is the time for Mr. Mugabe to be shown the door. If he is to be given a safe exit…so be it,” he told a meeting at the annual World Economic Forum of businessmen and political leaders in this Swiss ski resort.

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