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Africa Union Demands Immediate Resolution of Zimbabwe Crisis

President Robert Mugabe's government has dismissed calls by the chair of the African Union for an immediate 50-50 power-sharing deal between the government and the opposition. Yet Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party says it is committed to the stalled peace negotiations with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), mediated by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki.

Some political observes say the call by the African Union is an admission that the Southern African Development Community-mediated peace negotiations have failed to yield a lasting solution to Zimbabwe's ongoing economic and political crises.

Glen Mpani is the regional coordinator for the transitional justice program of the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the African Union's call for an immediate resolution of Zimbabwe's crisis is an improvement.

"The reaction is progressive and it is in the interest of finding a long lasting solution to the conflict that in Zimbabwe and to the current mediation that President Mbeki has been leading for quite sometime. But there is another angle to this that we need to look at and that is for AU (African Union) to come up with this position, it might be a sign that the Thabo Mbeki initiative has failed and it has now been taken to the AU level. And it now goes to be seen how ZANU-PF is going to react to it," Mpani pointed out.

He said the ruling party might not take kindly the AU's call for an immediate resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis by both the government and the opposition agreeing to a power sharing deal.

"It will depend on how the ruling ZANU-PF will react to it. Whether ZANU-PF will not see that as an affront or interference to President Mbeki's mediation process. And if ZANU-PF views this as interferening in the mediation process, they will equally scuttle the process and nothing is going to come out of it," he said.

Mpani said the African Union has not been overly helpful in finding ways to resolve Zimbabwe's economic and political crises.

"The African Union has not done enough. Part of our problem has been the African Union over the years when human rights organizations were bringing cases of abuse and the human rights commission did nothing about it, and they are now reacting late to the problem. And for them (AU) to allow him (Mugabe) to go to Egypt and to accord him as the sitting president of the country, it was complicit on the part of the AU to acknowledge that he is the president. Even this solution of a 50-50, it is a way of ensuring and siding with the loser by coming up with a position by saying okay lets go for a 50-50. Why can't they come up with a position to say lets respect the will of the people on the 29th of March?" Mpani asked.

He said the African Union's call for a 50-50 power sharing deal between the opposition and the ruling ZANU-PF party is workable.

"The 50-50 is feasible, and I think what Morgan Tsvangirai was advocating for is that, if you are going for a real power sharing, where a prime minister is given full responsibilities of a prime ministerial post, and as a president he gets some responsibilities. If they go for a 50-50, the victor of this process would have been ZANU-PF and ZANU-PF would have gained a lot. But I think under the circumstances, it is a feasible arrangement that they can work on in a transitional face with the hope of going back to the people to seek a proper mandate," he said.

Mpani said resolving the stalled peace negotiations would also hinge on the acceptance of the opposition of the power sharing agreement.

"The way forward now is to whether the MDC accepts that 50-50 arrangement and whether that 50-50 speaks to the teething issues that remains contentious in recent negotiations of the powers of the prime minister. And if it speaks to what the MDC has been saying, the MDC is going to jump to say this is what they have been looking for and to accept the interim," Mpani pointed out.

The power-sharing talks between Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party and the main opposition MDC reportedly stalled over how to share executive power between Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who refused to sign an agreement two weeks ago that would have made him prime minister because it did not give him enough executive powers.