Chris Blattman

Zimbabwe gets the best deal possible (out of a bad bunch)

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Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has signed a power-sharing deal with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Here’s how BBC News breaks down the reported deal:

Robert Mugabe:

  • President
  • Heads armed forces
  • Chairs cabinet
  • Zanu-PF has 15 ministers

Morgan Tsvangirai:

  • Prime minister
  • Chairs council of ministers
  • Controls police force
  • MDC has 16 ministers – 3 from smaller faction

What I would like to know: who’s got control of the election commission?

One of the better reactions so far, from Wronging Rights:

Hey, you know what the African continent hasn’t got enough of? Power-sharing governments composed of the people who actually won a democratic election, and the people who said to themselves: “Hey, if I refuse to concede my obvious defeat in this election, maybe 6 months from now, following several rounds of shuttle diplomacy, a raft of traded accusations of genocide, and the complete destruction of my country’s economy, I can demand to be appeased by participation in a new, power-sharing government!”

I’ve wondered before and I wonder now, unity governments: good enough for Africans but not for us? It’s hard to imagine such a Bush-Gore compromise, let alone as a result of international pressure.

Even so, this strikes me as the best deal possible without further violence. Possibly it’s an unstable one, but it leaves Tsvangirai and the opposition in a stronger position than ever before.

The big victor is South African President Mbeki, who negotiated the deal. It’s not clear who would have been left to play honest broker had he succumbed to international pressure and denounced Mugabe.

6 Responses

  1. I have come across this interesting example of the implementation of a government of national unity. A report, “Training Leaders for Peace,” by Howard Wolpe and Steve McDonald pointed out, in my opinion, quite cogently, that “Against this backdrop of weak national identities and institutions, a
    unidimensional stress on competitive, adversarial politics can well be
    A very interesting case overall, but, as to whether Mugabe would accept to undergo any training, knowing that he already has eleven degrees… You can decide for yourself.

  2. Had Mbeki “succumbed to international pressure and denounced Mugabe”, perhaps he would indeed be out of power now and not hold control the army?

  3. Our refusal to consider implementing this sort of solution at home not only raises some “if it quacks like paternalism…” issues, but it deprived us of the chance to see Leon Fuerth and Condoleeza Rice battle it out for the post of National Security Advisor to the Gore-Bush unity government!

  4. Although power-sharing agreements tend to be the common consensus on how to fix problems like these, I’ve become more suspicious of them since reading a piece by Philip Roeder (citation below). He suggests “power dividing” agreements, and I wonder if they really would work better.

    Roeder, Philip G. (2005). Power Dividing as an Alternative to Ethnic Power Sharing. Sustainable peace : power and democracy after civil wars. Philip G. Roeder and Donald S. Rothchild. Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University Press: 51-82.

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