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Zimbabwean Leaders United in Call for End to Political Violence

The leaders of Zimbabwe's unity government have initiated a national healing and reconciliation campaign, calling for tolerance and an end to the political violence that is still going on five months after the formation of the unity government.

At a ceremony to launch the campaign Friday, President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, who lead the three parties that form the unity government, all acknowledged that Zimbabwe needs to go through a healing process following decades of political violence.

The three leaders say political violence and intolerance are still prevalent in the country. Mr. Mugabe lamented that supporters of the three parties have not followed in the path of their leaders, who, he said, are working together in what he described as amity. He said this was the result of the long hours they spent together during the negotiations that brought about the unity government.

"What that did to us was to realize that, after all, although we have been fighting as leaders of different parties, that there is that one very essential bond, which can never be severed, that we are all Zimbabweans," said Mr. Mugabe.

The president pointed to Zimbabwe's violent past from pre-colonial times, through colonialism and after independence. All these have to be addressed, he said. Mr. Mugabe conceded political differences will always exist, and condemned the use of all forms of intimidation or coercion.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai, whose Movement for Democratic Change party complains of continued victimization by Mr. Mugabe's party, said it was up to the leadership to ask their followers to desist from political violence.

"If these days are to herald the start of a genuine process of National Healing then we, as leaders, must make an unequivocal call to all our peoples and to all our supporters for an immediate cessation of violence, persecution and lawlessness," he said.

Arthur Mutambara who leads a breakaway faction of the Movement for Democratic Change also said the political leadership is key to any healing.

"Mr. President and prime minister let us work together to put an end to violence, to put an end to disharmony, to put an end to conflict in our country," he said. "If we do not put an end to these vices in our country, these vices are going to put an end to our civilization."

Mr. Mugabe called on Zimbabweans to forgive and forget, but Prime Minister Tsvangirai said justice is a crucial element of any healing process.

"National Healing cannot occur without justice, and justice must be done, as well as be seen to be done. There can be no room or tolerance for retribution, as retribution perpetuates the cycle of oppression and suffering," he said.

The need for Zimbabwe to go through a process of national healing, reconciliation and integration after years of intolerance and political violence was acknowledged in the agreement that brought about the unity government. Three ministers, one from each of the parties, were appointed to oversee the process. The three days of prayer are the beginning of a nationwide campaign of consultations with Zimbabweans in an effort to deal with the country's traumatic past.