Power-sharing talks fail to break impasse

Zimbabwe's power-sharing talks ended without a deal on Monday and opposition leader MorganTsvangirai said no progress was made on what he called the "darkest day of our lives". Regional leaders are seeking new negociations.


AFP - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his rival Morgan Tsvangirai failed to reach a deal on forming a unity government in talks Monday, but regional leaders planned yet another summit to break the impasse.

Tsvangirai called it "the darkest day of our lives" after leaving 12 hours of talks mediated by South African President Kgalema Motlanthe without an agreement to end the deadlock that followed disputed elections last year.

The impasse further dimmed the chances for ordinary Zimbabweans to ease their daily struggles, with half the population dependent on food aid, astronomical levels of hyperinflation, and a cholera epidemic sweeping unchecked across the country.

Tomaz Salomao, executive secretary of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), told reporters that the bloc would hold an extraordinary summit next Monday in hopes of brokering a deal.

Before the talks, which were also attended by regional mediator Thabo Mbeki and Mozambican President Armando Emilio Guebuza, both sides had painted their meeting as a make-or-break moment for the unity accord they signed on September 15.

But Mugabe, who on Sunday had threatened to cut off the talks, said that both sides would carry on with their discussions in Zimbabwe ahead of the summit.

"We will continue with discussions here at home," Mugabe told reporters. "We shall continue to exchange ideas and see where the differences are with the SADC proposal."

Regional leaders see the unity pact as the best chance for breaking Zimbabwe's political deadlock and curbing the once-prosperous nation's stunning economic collapse.

Tsvangirai refuses to join the government unless his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) wins key cabinet posts, including the home affairs ministry which is responsible for the police.

The accord envisages 84-year-old Mugabe remaining as president while Tsvangirai takes the new post of prime minister, and also guaranteed freedom of political activity.

Tsvangirai says Mugabe has disregarded the protections in the accord, pointing to the abductions and beatings of MDC members and rights activists.

"We came to this meeting hoping we would put the people's plight to rest and conclude these power-sharing discussions," Tsvangirai told reporters as he left the talks.

"Unfortunately, there's been no progress because the very same outstanding issues on the agenda... are the same issues that are creating this impasse," he added.

"For us as the MDC, this is probably the darkest day of our lives, for the whole nation is waiting," he said.

Tsvangirai argues that his party should hold more influence in government, after the MDC won a majority in parliament and he defeated Mugabe during a first-round presidential vote in March.

The result unleashed a brutal wave of political violence which has left more than 180 people dead, mostly MDC supporters, according to Amnesty International.

Citing the violence, Tsvangirai pulled out of a run-off, leaving Mugabe to declare a one-sided victory in June.

Since then, Zimbabwe has plunged ever deeper into disaster. More than 2,200 people have died of cholera, caused mainly by broken water and sewage pipes in the city and refuse that has laid uncollected for months.

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