By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 22, 2008
JOHANNESBURG, Dec. 21 -- The United States will not support a unity government in Zimbabwe that includes President Robert Mugabe, a top American envoy told reporters in South Africa on Sunday.
A power-sharing agreement between Zimbabwe's opposition parties and Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe with increasing severity for 28 years, is "not credible with Mugabe as president" because he appears unwilling to share control, said Jendayi Frazer, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
The comments, which came days after Frazer echoed calls by President Bush and other world leaders that Mugabe step down, indicated a shift in U.S. policy toward a power-sharing deal signed in September.
The United States, like other Western nations, initially expressed support for the agreement and pledged to ease sanctions and send aid dollars if the deal gave opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai true power. Under the terms of the pact, Tsvangirai was to become prime minister, and his party and a splinter opposition party were to hold 16 of 31 cabinet seats.
But implementation of the pact has stalled since then, as Zimbabwe's devastated economy has collapsed further and a cholera outbreak has killed more than 1,100 people.
The parties have deadlocked over the assignment of key ministries, including those controlling the security forces that Mugabe used to wage a bloody crackdown against the opposition in the spring, after he won fewer votes than Tsvangirai in presidential elections.
Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has accused Mugabe's ruling party of wanting to make the MDC a "junior member" in the government and of abducting more than 40 opposition and civil society activists in an effort to quell criticism.
On Friday, Tsvangirai said the MDC would suspend talks and contact with ZANU-PF, the ruling party, on Jan. 1 unless the government releases or charges those who are missing.
"There can be no meaningful talks while a campaign of terror is being waged against our people," Tsvangirai told reporters in Botswana, one of the few African nations that has called on Mugabe to leave office.
Frazer told reporters that she had pressed other African countries, including regional powerhouse and Zimbabwe neighbor South Africa, to increase pressure on Mugabe. A spokesman for the South African government said Sunday that the country's stance of urging the quick formation of a unity government was unchanged, news services reported.
Mugabe, who has called Tsvangirai a puppet of the West, has shown no willingness to give up control of the former British colony, despite growing international pressure. Speaking at an annual ruling party conference Friday, the 84-year-old leader said he would "never surrender."
"Zimbabwe is mine," he said. "Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans. Zimbabwe never for the British. Britain for the British."
Last week, Mugabe's government accused Britain of having launched the cholera outbreak as part of a "genocidal onslaught."
Citing that claim, Frazer on Sunday called Mugabe "a man who's lost it, who's losing his mind, who's out of touch with reality."