September 16, 2008

Political Rivals Sign Power-Share Deal


By Celia W. Dugger and Alan Cowell

The New York Times

HARARE, Zimbabwe

After more than 28 years of unbroken power, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe signed an agreement with 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 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 conference center at a Harare hotel celebrated the signing and were jubilant when Tsvangirai appeared, hooting and applauding. Among the audience were many opposition workers who had gone into hiding in the run-up to the election earlier this year or been beaten in government- sponsored violence over the past eight years.

Godknows Nyamweda, 36, a local ward councilor 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 the repression could yet return with a vengeance .

The crowd also repeatedly cheered the presence of Botswana's president, Seretse Khama Ian Khama , clapping and chanting, "Khama, Khama, Khama." He has been 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 be divided. Western nations are wary of pouring billions of dollars into Zimbabwe for its reconstruction unless they are convinced Tsvangirai has the authority 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 contested elections, scarred by bloodletting and intimidation, which the opposition blamed on the government. Tsvangirai claimed victory in the first round of elections in March. But he boycotted a presidential run-off in June, citing political violence, leaving Mugabe as the sole candidate.

Despite the violence and bad feelings between the two 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, 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 .

sharing power

President Robert Mugabe, left, laughs with the new prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, right, at the signing of the power sharing deal in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Monday. King Mswati of Swaziland is in the middle.

Originally published by BY CELIA W. DUGGER.

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