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African Union calls for unity government in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's opposition rejects calls for a unity government, however, citing perceived bias of mediator, South African President Thabo Mbeki.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / July 3, 2008

George Charamba, spokesperson for Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe spoke to the media at the African Union summit. African leaders called on President Mugabe to form a government of national unity on Tuesday. Mr. Charamba said Zimbabwe would not adopt the 'Kenyan way,' of negotiating a power-sharing agreement.

Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

In its most strongly worded statement on Zimbabwe thus far, the African Union (AU) called on President Robert Mugabe to form a government of national unity – a power-sharing arrangement – with his chief rival, Morgan Tsvangirai.

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The AU statement, which fell short of the full condemnation of Mr. Mugabe sought by some African nations, such as Nigeria, Botswana, Kenya, Liberia, and Senegal, expressed concern over the violence during the three-month-long election process and called on South Africa to continue its work in mediating the political crisis.

Neither Mugabe nor Mr. Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), expressed much enthusiasm for a unity government, with Mugabe's spokesman telling reporters in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheik that Zimbabwe would not adopt the "Kenyan way" of negotiating a power-sharing agreement. "Kenya is Kenya. Zimbabwe is Zimbabwe," said George Charamba, Mugabe's spokesman. As for Western critics, Mr. Charamba said, they could "go hang a thousand times."

The African Union's inability to directly rebuke Mugabe for an election that even African observers say "fell short" of AU standards, for acts of violence and intimidation that killed some 90 opposition activists and displaced tens of thousands more, shows the limits of the AU's promises of solving African problems with African solutions. While some African nations are pushing hard toward greater democratization, others are digging in their heels against reform and clinging steadfastly to the very tools of violence that Mugabe has used.

"This clearly indicates that there are no shared and common values around what good governance is, what democracy is," says Chris Maroleng, a security analyst at the Institute for Security Studies in Tshwane, South Africa, as Pretoria is now called. "A lot of our leaders have questionable democratic credentials, so it's not surprising that the AU fell short of the mark."

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