- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2008


The power-sharing deal signed yesterday between Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe and his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, is a stop-gap measure which leaves many of the nation’s most vexing problems unresolved. The agreement was struck after months of violence, followed by negotiations brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki. Yet Mr. Mugabe’s murderous rampage, human rights violations and his thwarting of the democratic process remain largely unpunished.

The deal fails to redress the fact that the will of the Zimbabwe people has not been fully heard. The first round of presidential elections held in March resulted in victory for Mr. Tsvangirai’s party, Movement for Democratic Change. He did not have sufficient support, however, to prevent a second round of voting. Yet Mr. Mugabe and his advocates unleashed a bloodbath against the opposition - one that was conducted mostly by the military and police. Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew from the campaign amid cries - echoed by his supporters and the international community - that the process was unjust. Mr. Mugabe won the second round of voting in June. But by then, international observers recognized this to be a sham election. What legitimacy does Mr. Mugabe now have?

Under the new agreement, Mr. Mugabe nonetheless remains as president and still has control of the military, which are the very tools he needs to threaten dissidents. Mr. Tsvangirai will be prime minister, but it is uncertain how much power he will wield. The cabinet will contain 31 members; 16 from the opposition and 15 from Mr. Mugabe’s ruling ZANU party.

World leaders rightly view the deal with cautious optimism because the violence has ceased for now and Mr. Mugabe has seemingly ceded some ground to his opponents. But the road ahead is long and difficult. Zimbabwe’s economy is struggling under the weight of hyperinflation and heavy economic sanctions. Human rights organizations fear that the perpetrators of the violence will be given immunity. And some opposition leaders in Zimbabwe insist that the deal gives Mr. Mugabe too much room to return to his old habits.

This deal does nothing to redress the gross brutality committed at the hands of the Mugabe government. But it is a good start - for now.

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