Talks begin on Zimbabwe power-sharing deal
Talks began today between the Zimbabwean government and opposition parties. These talks are aimed at bringing an end to the country's political crisis and constant violence.
Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai shook hands yesterday on a deal to begin negotiations on a power-sharing agreement. This was the first time they had shook hands in a decade.
The leaders are giving themselves two weeks to work out an agreement, with talks starting Tuesday afternoon at a secret location in South Africa.
Neither Mugabe nor Tsvangarai is slated to attend; both opted to send high-ranking aides instead. The parties also decided to hold the talks under a media blackout.
Tsvangirai, in an open message to Zimbabweans, said Tuesday that the deal to negotiate "offers the most tangible opportunity in the past 10 years to improve the lives of our fellow citizens." However, he cautioned, "our signatures alone do not guarantee that we will be able to make the most of this opportunity."
As part of the negotiation framework, Mugabe agreed to a key demand for an end to government-incited attacks on opposition party workers and sympathizers.
Opposition parties and the international organization Human Rights Watch say the violence has killed dozens, injured thousands and sent thousands more fleeing from their homes since the first round of presidential voting and parliamentary elections in March, which Mugabe lost to Tsvangirai's MDC.
There are broad outlines for discussion and no indication what Mugabe, who has clung to power for 28 years, may be willing to concede. The leaders agreed on the need to work together "in an inclusive government" — the closest language to a power-sharing accord. They also committed to creating a "genuine, viable, permanent and sustainable solution."
I suppose a handshake is a start but it could just be fake as the history between these two men is long and rocky.
Some Zimbabweans are seeing Mugabe in a new light after this agreement and think that is gives him credibility as a leader.
However, on a different continent:
Meanwhile, in Brussels on Tuesday, European Union foreign ministers are expected to consider tightening sanctions against Mugabe.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Monday's meeting between Mugabe and Tsvangirai — their first in 10 years — was only "a first step." EU nations expect more proof that Mugabe is willing to agree to a transitional government with the opposition, he said.
"It requires an end to the violence, it requires an end to the ban on humanitarian NGOs getting around Zimbabwe. Those are the first steps toward a resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis," Miliband told reporters.
The talks will take place in South Africa, and will hopefully find a possible power-sharing agreement, how to revive Zimbabwe's devastated economy and steps to end political violence.
I hope that these talks are really the first step to ending the violence and uncertainty in Zimbabwe, but at the moment I think the international community is still unsure of how best to approach this. It seems that we are all waiting with baited breath about what's going to happen next.