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Published 22nd March 2002

Vol 43 No 6


On the knife-edge

Neither side wants a power-sharing government but at least it might stop the violence

Quietly, within days of the disputed 10-12 March presidential election, the outline of a deal between Zimbabwe's warring political parties emerged. After two years of rising tension, with one of Africa's most hopeful economies heading for the abyss, it looked like the last chance for political peace. Brokered by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, the deal proposes: a coalition government with ministers from all parties and some non-partisan figures; a review of recent oppressive laws on public assembly and the media; full implementation of the Abuja agreement stipulating orderly land redistribution, to be financed by Britain and international financial institutions. Also under discussion is the dropping of treason charges against Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and its Secretary General, Welshman Ncube. Tsvangirai was formally charged on 20 March in a move that will make negotiations even more problematic Time is pressing. The mood in the streets of Harare and Bulawayo is angry and mainly backs the MDC; almost everyone believes Tsvangirai was cheated of victory. The anger is not just political. The United Nations World Food Programme says over 500,000 people are malnourished and three times as many have registered for food aid. Usually cautious commentators forecast maize-meal riots within weeks, unless the government organises emergency distribution ­ not just to the ruling party's supporters.

The nomenklatura

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Zimbabwe's nomenklatura and their business friends now face tightening economic 'smart' sanctions from the European Union and United States. Instead of widening the range of sancti...

Alternating currents

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The government is transitional but the opposition fears its power is permanent

The four-month-old transitional government is, in some ways, the one intended by the agreement signed in Arusha, Tanzania, in August 2000. President Pierre Buyoya is as firmly in c...

Cross-border pressures

Regional quarrels are rumbling across the Maghreb

A ten-year ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front liberation movement is in danger of being broken, now that the United Nations is threatening to pull out of Western Sah...

Algeria's growing military machine

Algeria's progress against the Islamist underground was confirmed by the killing last month of Antar Zouabri, the leader of the Groupe Islamique Armé. This was a coup for th...

Risky money

Oil companies meet human rights and political challenges in Africa's new fields

The oil majors, nervous about the Arabian Gulf, see big opportunities in Africa (AC Vol 43 No 5). Yet global recession and new political pressures present them with huge difficulti...


Pals with Pal

Is southern Sudan, already burdened with enough problems of its own, becoming enmeshed in another proxy war on its border with Ethiopia? Such fears follow the arrival in eastern Su...

Tote that barge

Shipping containers around West and Central Africa is twice as expensive as in other parts of the world. A private consortium now hopes to transform regional trade, with a service ...