Thursday, November 6, 2008

Zimbabwe: violence rising, hope fading

Nearly two months after signing a landmark power-sharing agreement, the rival political forces in Zimbabwe have failed to form a government, and it looks like any hope of getting the two sides together may be finished.

That’s the word coming from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, who on Thursday accused President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party of resorting to their old tactic of assaulting political opponents. The MDC claims 25 of their members were beaten by state security forces last week, five of them badly enough to be hospitalized; others were arrested this week. In recent years, state security forces have been becoming more brutal as they attempt to keep Mugabe in power.

After two contested elections this year, the second one effectively ending when the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai dropped out because of widespread attacks against MDC members, a power-sharing agreement was finally reached with the ZANU-PF and Mugabe. Under the deal the two parties were to split the government ministries between them, but Mugabe quickly moved to stock the most powerful ministries (like Defense and Home Affairs, which controls the national police force) with ZANU-PF members, leaving the less important ones to the MDC. The MDC has refused since the deal was to split the ministries not only in number, but by power as well. They have been holding out for control of Home Affairs, which has effectively kept Mugabe in power for the past few years.

Meanwhile, the country once called the breadbasket of southern Africa now is plagued by epidemic levels of hunger and is suffering from hyperinflation (some estimates put it at a billion percent annually). Leaders of Zimbabwe's neighbors are set to meet this Sunday to discuss the situation amid reports that they worry the situation in Zimbabwe could destabilize all of southern Africa.
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