(Photo: AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
World leaders are taking a cautious approach to the historic and long-awaited news that Zimbabwe’s bitter political parties have finally come to a power-sharing agreement.
Instead of rejoicing that the unstable country has resolved its decade-long political conflict, western leaders rather are keeping a wary eye on the coalition government to see if real cooperation and change will occur.
The United States said it was waiting to see the details of the deal, while the European Union said it wants to see democratic improvements before lifting sanctions, according to Agence France-Presse.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said while the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change has briefed the United States on the agreement, it has yet to see the full 80-page document, according to The Associated Press.
But from what U.S. officials have been told, McCormack noted, “We would welcome this agreement.”
Arch rivals President Robert Mugabe and main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, along with Arthur Mutambara of a faction that broke away from Tsvangirai’s party agreed on Monday to manage the government together following a presidential election earlier this summer that the international community had condemned as a sham.
Under the agreement, Mugabe would relinquish some power for the first time in nearly three decades. His long-time bitter rival Tsvangirai will now be the country’s prime minister, while Mutambara will be the deputy prime minister.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist since its independence from Britain in 1980.
With Mugabe in control of Zimbabwe, the former breadbasket of southern Africa has turned into an economic nightmare suffering the highest inflation rate in the world, chronic food shortage, and an 80 percent unemployment rate.
Critics of Mugabe’s rule, most notably Tsvangirai, were imprisoned, beaten, tortured and sometimes even killed.
There was also a tight grip around news media, with only those approved by the government allowed to operate.
But on Monday, Mugabe forwent his usual verbal lashing of Tsvangirai and spoke of unity.
“We have to walk the same route the same way,” said the 84-year-old Mugabe referring to Zimbabwe’s political parties, according to AP.
"Are we beginning today? No. We have been walking the same route without knowing it, or not recognizing each other. After all, we are all Zimbabweans and is there any other road, any other route to follow? History makes us walk the same route."
Meanwhile, Tsvangirai called on the parties to work together to “unite the country” and fix its devastated economy.
"The international aid organizations came to help our country and found our doors locked," Tsvangirai said. "We need to unlock our doors to aid - we need medicine, food, and doctors back in our country.
"We need electricity, water, petrol for our vehicles, we need to access our cash from banks."
Former colonizer Britain is providing aid to Zimbabwe following news of the agreement, but remains cautious.
David Miliband, Britain’s foreign secretary said:
"We hope that the new government will now reverse the tragic policies and decline of recent years,” he said in a statement Monday. "The new government needs to start to rebuild the country. If it does so, Britain and the rest of the international community will be quick to support them."
Likewise, the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, on his Web Site wrote that the deal was “a step in the right direction” to a “full restoration” of justice, democracy and an end to the “brutal regime” of Mugabe.
But he acknowledged the caution in the international community that aid given to Zimbabwe will make it to the poor and not pro-Mugabe supporters like in the past three decades.
“The path to justice will be long and arduous, but I am praying that today marks a step in the right direction,” Sentamu wrote.
The power-sharing deal was reached after two months of intense talks mediated by South African president Thabo Mbeki.