Zimbabwe Rivals to Wield Equal Power in Unity Government: Sources

President Robert Mugabe and the opposition will wield equal power in a unity government aimed at ending Zimbabwe's protracted political crisis and economic meltdown, a source said, as international reactions were muted.

The final results of Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections in March 2008. President Robert Mugabe and the opposition will wield equal power in a unity government aimed at ending Zimbabwe's protracted political crisis and economic meltdown.(AFP Graphic/Afp Infographics)

While details of Thursday's accord will be formally unveiled on Monday, a source close to the talks told AFP that both the veteran leader and opposition boss Morgan Tsvangirai would co-lead the economically battered nation.

"Mugabe will chair cabinet, while Tsvangirai takes charge of a national security council which consists of 31 cabinet ministers," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"Power will be shared, no one will get more power than the other party, even (in) the hiring and firing of cabinet members," the source explained.

"All decisions are made by the council, but the council will have to report back to Mugabe."

Under the agreement, the national security council Tsvangirai will preside over includes the police and the army, which the opposition says Mugabe has often used in the past to terrorise opponents, according to other sources close to the talks.

Many Zimbabweans reacted warily to the deal on Friday, preferring to wait and see if the agreement between the longtime bitter political rivals could be put into practice.

Over the past decade Zimbabwe's economy has collapsed with the world's highest inflation rate, chronic shortages of foreign currency and food, skyrocketing unemployment and widespread hunger.

While South Africa, whose president Thabo Mbeki mediated the talks, congratulated Zimbabweans over the "historic" deal, the European Commission on Friday was cautious, saying that it wants to see how the agreement plays out.

"The European Commission of course welcomes this significant step forward," said John Clancy, commission spokesman on humanitarian aid and development issues.

"However we will have to wait to learn much more about this on Monday," he said. "At this stage we are cautiously optimistic".

The European Union said it was reconsidering plans to extend its sanctions against Zimbabwe, following the Harare deal, according to the French EU presidency.

Britain also reacted cautiously, with Foreign Secretary David Miliband saying in a statement: "The Zimbabwean people deserve a lasting democratic settlement that will bring reform, economic recovery and stability.

"We look forward to seeing the full details of the agreement announced yesterday by President Mbeki."

The United States reacted in similar vein.

"We've seen the press reports about the deal, and we've started to try to get some details about the deal," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

"I'm going to withhold any more definitive comment until we have a full understanding of it," he said.

African Union Commission chairman Jean Ping welcomed the power-sharing accord and hoped it would boost the recovery of the struggling southern African nation.

"The chairperson commends the Zimbabwean parties for arriving at this agreement, which marks a turning point in the efforts aimed at promoting reconciliation, stability and fostering conditions conducive for the recovery of their country," the AU said in a statement.

The agreement reached late Thursday after four days of tough negotiations followed a ruinous political stalemate between the 84-year-old Mugabe and Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

In March polls, Mugabe's ruling party was routed for the first time since independence from Britain in 1980.

Mugabe was then re-elected unopposed in a June run-off that Tsvangirai boycotted despite finishing ahead of the president in the March first round, citing state-sponsored violence against his supporters.

The MDC said that at least 200 of its supporters were killed in the run-up to the elections.

On Friday, human rights watchdog Amnesty International stressed that the power-sharing deal should not allow human rights violators to escape justice.

"Nothing should be agreed that would prevent the full emergence of the truth -- and those responsible for the gross human rights violations that took place must be brought to justice," warned Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty's Zimbabwe specialist.

Source: AFP

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