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Zimbabwe's Coalition Parties Meet in Rare Talks

  • Peta Thornycroft

President Robert Mugabe, centre, shares a light moment with Morgan Tsvangirai, left, Zimbabwe's Prime Minister and his Deputy, Arthur Mutambara after giving their end of year message to the nation, at Zimbabwe House in Harare, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009

For the first time Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party's politburo and the national executive committees of the two Movement for Democratic Change parties met on Wednesday to discuss ways to ensure that political violence ends in Zimbabwe.

The meeting in Harare was the first time the three parties' national executives have met since a unity government was formed 17 months ago.

Following the establishment of the unity government, a multi-party Committee for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration was formed to try to heal some of the scars of political violence since Zimbabwe's independence from the United Kingdom in 1980.

The healing committee has traveled to several regions of the country to persuade victims and perpetrators to face one another and tell their stories.

More than 100 delegates from the three parties agreed by consensus that there could be no national healing without justice and compensation, and that the police must arrest anyone who commits violence.

MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti described the meeting as historic and said the challenge was to ensure that no Zimbabwean ever attacks or kills another on the basis of political affiliation.

Most of the political violence of the decade followed the emergence of the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, which came close to winning elections in 2000.

Domestic and international human rights monitoring groups, such as Human Rights Watch, say that President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party has been responsible for most of the political violence since independence.

Although rights monitors say political violence has declined significantly since the unity government came to power, the MDC says some of its members, particularly in rural areas, are still being attacked.