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SA change democratic, says Raila

ZANZIBAR, September 26 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga has described the political transition in South Africa as a new threshold for democracy on the continent, but one that could heap stress on that nation.

In a statement issued from Zanzibar, the Prime Minister said it was the first time in Africa that a democratically elected President had voluntarily resigned on the advice of his party.

“By his courageous decision, President Thabo Mbeki showed unquestionable reverence for a party and country that he has sacrificed so much for,” Mr Odinga noted.

However, the PM said that Mr Mbeki’s departure comes at a time when there are ‘huge threats to stability in Africa’, and could affect progress made on some important regional initiatives that he led.

“President Mbeki’s exit will also put inevitable stress on South Africa’s politics. But I very much hope and expect that there will be an orderly transition.”

SA’s new leader Kgalema Motlanthe was sworn-in on Friday, as the third President of independent South Africa. He will head the richest economy on the continent until April 2009, when Parliament will vote for a new president.

Meanwhile, Mr Mbeki’s resignation has raised new concerns about the fragile power-sharing deal he brokered just one week ago in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Analysts said that although the deal was clinched, tough negotiations were still under way on forming a cabinet that would bring together Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

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An alliance of civic groups, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said that Mr Mbeki’s exit came at ‘a fragile time’, with the cabinet list up in the air. They observed that since Mr Mbeki was the sole mediator in the agreement, Zimbabweans were now asking what the future of the country held.

However, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa assured that Mr Mbeki’s exit would not spell disaster for the Zimbabwe deal, and was confident that the new administration would fare quite well.

Mr Odinga has congratulated Mr Motlanthe describing him as an illustrious anti-apartheid hero, trade unionist and a people’s leader.

“We in Kenya look forward to renewed cooperation with the new President on issues of common cause to our two countries and to the continent,” he added.

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