Fresh diplomatic push for Zimbabwe

November 2, 2009 12:00 am

, HARARE, Nov 2 – Zimbabwe’s neighbours on Monday intensified efforts to break an impasse threatening a fragile unity government, as Congolese leader Joseph Kabila met with feuding leaders and a new summit was set for this week.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai suspended cooperation with long-ruling President Robert Mugabe more than two weeks ago, accusing the 85-year-old leader of failing to live up to his side of the deal.

The deadlock has heightened fears about the fate of the unity accord, which was meant to end deadly political violence that erupted after last year’s failed presidential elections.

Kabila, who currently heads the Southern African Development Community (SADC), flew to Harare late Sunday. He met with Mugabe on Monday and was later due to hold talks with Tsvangirai.

"I am here to visit friends," Kabila said shortly after his arrival, according to state media.

Kabila did not speak to reporters as he began his talks with Mugabe, but has insisted that both parties must respect the unity deal, which was brokered by the 15-nation regional bloc.

"There is a problem within the Zimbabwe government, that is a fact. But the situation has not gotten out of hand," Kabila said on Friday.

"As the region we believe that the agreement signed last year is still binding. Any amendments must be made within the framework of that agreement," said Kabila.

SADC’s security troika sent of team of mediators to Zimbabwe last week, but the talks resulted only in new recriminations, with Mugabe saying Tsvangirai’s party was untrustworthy.

"They can never be true and genuine partners and they have proved to be dishonest," Mugabe said.

Mozambique, head of the security body, announced that it would convene a special summit Thursday with fellow Troika members Swaziland and Zambia to make a new push for a resolution in Zimbabwe.

The stalemate in Harare comes after months of bickering over the unity deal.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says that party supporters remain the target of arrests and intimidation, despite guarantees of political freedoms under the unity deal.

The MDC also insists that the government must replace the attorney general and the central bank governor, who is blamed for the hyperinflation that caused the collapse of the local currency.

But Tsvangirai only suspended cooperation with Mugabe after Roy Bennett, nominee for deputy agriculture minister, was again arrested on terror charges in mid-October.

The case has become a symbol of the government’s unresolved challenges.

For its part, Mugabe’s party accuses the MDC of failing to lobby Western nations for the lifting of a travel ban and asset freeze on the president and about 200 of his family members and allies.

The unity government is meant to draft a new constitution that would pave the way for fresh elections, and regional leaders are eager for the deal to hold.


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