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New Political Leader Emerging for Zimbabwe Opposition

The recent split in Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change has the country's opposition in disarray. However, a potential new leader has moved into view.

Arthur Mutambara is a former student leader who is now recognized as one of Africa's most prominent scientists.

Fifteen years ago at the University of Zimbabwe he lead the student opposition to the ruling Zanu PF.

According to records at the university he was a brilliant engineering student, who won every scholarship he applied for.

After completing his doctorate at Britain's Oxford University he went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and became professor at several other universities in the United States. Unlike many African academics, Mutambara was always determined to return to Africa.

Over the weekend he arrived back in Zimbabwe from Johannesburg where he heads up an African scientific institution for talks with leaders of one faction of the MDC. Some in this faction want him to make himself available as a candidate for the top job, as president.

Late Monday he confirmed his re-entry into Zimbabwe politics, and said he hoped the enthusiasm of a new leadership which he said was untainted by current disagreements, would make unification of the two factions of the MDC possible.

According to the MDC's constitution any one of the 12 provinces would have to nominate him and authorized delegates to the party's congress next Sunday will vote for a new president.

Should he get the necessary nomination, and win the vote, analysts say his political past, intellectual prowess and reputation as a leader, would do much to revive Zimbabwe's stalled opposition politics and could lead to the two factions re-uniting.

The faction of the MDC lead by party president Morgan Tsvangirai declined to comment on Mutambara's sudden re-entry into Zimbabwe's opposition political scenario.

Tsvangirai's faction is holding its congress next month, but he is certain to be the only candidate for the top job.

The MDC split last October over adherence to the party's constitution.

Tsvangirai said that even though a narrow majority of party executives voted to participate in the first ever elections for a senate last November, the MDC should not take part.

He said participation was a waste of time and money and the electoral playing field was not level.

Most of the MDC's top leaders rebelled against him, saying he had defied the party's constitution.

The party split into two factions with both declaring themselves to be authentic.

A senior MDC official, legal secretary David Coltart, who has remained outside of either faction is trying to arrange what he describes as an "amicable" divorce between the two sides.