The president of Zimbabwe and two opposition leaders have signed a power-sharing agreement aimed at ending the Zimbabwean crisis. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our Southern Africa Bureau in Johannesburg the accord follows months of negotiations mediated by South Africa.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara shook hands over the agreement before half-a-dozen African heads of state and several thousand supporters in Harare.
After three decades of undisputed rule, the accord calls for Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party to share power with the opposition. Mr. Mugabe noted that the agreement contains elements that neither he nor the opposition liked.
"History makes us walk the same route," Mugabe said. "We may disagree on that route and this is what we were doing. But now there are areas where we find ourselves in agreement. And as we move forward, as long as certain salient (important) principles are recognized we will find more room for agreement."
He said these principles included recognition of Zimbabwe's sovereignty. And he accused foreign powers that levied economic sanctions against his government of seeking to impose solutions to Zimbabwe's problems.
Under the accord, Mr. Mugabe is to continue as head-of-state and preside over cabinet meetings. Mr. Tsvangirai, who heads the largest faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, is to assume the newly created post of prime minister and chair the newly created Council of Ministers.
A smaller opposition (MDC) faction led by Arthur Mutambara, is to receive three ministries and Mutambara is to assume one of two newly created positions of deputy prime minister.
The president's party is to receive 15 ministerial portfolios, while Mr. Tsvangirai's group is to receive 13 ministries and the Mutambara faction is to receive three cabinet posts.
Mr. Tsvangirai said he signed the agreement because he believes it represented the best opportunity to build a peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe. In a reference to the political violence that has plagued Zimbabwe, Mr. Tsvangirai said his hope for the future ran deeper than his grief over past sufferings and he called for the new leadership to overcome its rivalries.
"As Prime Minster-designate, I call on all supporters of both ZANU-PF and MDC to unite as all Zimbabweans," Tsvangirai said, "to put the interests of our people and our nation first and to work together for a new Zimbabwe. Divisions, polarization and hatred belong to the past."
The opposition won a majority of the parliamentary seats in elections last March and Mr. Tsvangirai received the most votes in the presidential race. But Mr. Mugabe won the runoff vote after Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew, citing a campaign of state-sponsored intimidation in which more than 100 of his supporters were killed.