Ten months after Zimbabwe’s presidential election, the country’s main opposition party has announced that it is ready to establish a unity government with President Robert Mugabe. The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, won a majority of votes in the presidential election in March. He did not win enough votes to avoid a runoff and eventually withdrew from the race, accusing Mugabe of violence against MDC supporters. In what was widely regarded by the international community as a fraudulent election, Mugabe won the runoff in June.
The MDC and Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, agreed in September to share power in a unity government. However, the agreement has been hindered by a lack of agreement on key issues, such as the distribution of key Cabinet posts amongst the two parties and the control of security forces. The decision by the MDC to recommit to the unity government was conditional on the country’s constitution being amended to include the position of Prime Minister (which Tsvangirai would hold) and all opposition supporters arrested since the election being released. A deadline of February 11th was set by the MDC and members of the Southern African Development Community; Zimbabwe’s government did not issue an immediate response.
The agreement has been praised by international leaders, particularly because the country is in the midst of a deadly cholera epidemic. The UN will release $8 million from its emergency fund to combat the spread of the disease, which has infected 60,000 people and killed 3,100 in Zimbabwe. The crisis has been exacerbated in the country by a shortage of food (more than half of the country’s population relies on food aid) and safe drinking water. Inadequate sanitation and insufficient health care infrastructure have also been contributing factors. Assistant Director-General for the World Health Organization’s Health Action in Crises Cluster, Eric Laroche, described the situation as “an extraordinary public health crisis” that will require swift action to prevent additional outbreaks in Zimbabwe and spillover epidemics in other southern African nations.