Mugabe claims power-sharing partners trying to oust him
Zimbabwe's peace process is near collapse, amid accusations of guerrilla training camps and abductions of opposition party members.
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa
Three months after signing an agreement to share power with the main opposition parties, President Robert Mugabe has begun to accuse his putative partners of launching a guerrilla war to unseat him.Skip to next paragraph
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In parts of Mashonaland, where the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) made dramatic inroads among disaffected voters who had always voted for Mugabe's ZANU-PF party before, Zimbabwe police have rounded up 13 MDC members, on charges of trying to firebomb the homes of ZANU-PF members. Worryingly, police have not brought the accused MDC members to court to face formal charges, and police refuse to tell lawyers where the accused have been jailed.
Combined with Zimbabwe's stark, and unproven, charges that the neighboring state of Botswana is sponsoring training camps for overthrowing the Zimbabwe government, Zimbabwe's fretful peace process appears on the edge of collapse, with the possibility of an all-out crackdown, and, possibly, war.
"Let me state that the MDC is not conducting military training camps in Botswana or any other country as this would be contrary to the values and objectives of the MDC," said MDC leader and Zimbabwe's prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai, in a statement released from his temporary home in Botswana.
He urged the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) to restart power-sharing talks in earnest. "I encourage SADC to become more actively involved in finding a solution to our crisis once and for all."
While few regional experts would support the outbreak of a new conflict in Zimbabwe, most would admit that MDC's hopes of sharing power with Robert Mugabe is unrealistic and that when all democratic peaceful means have been shut out, the military option is often the only option left. Yet the MDC – an ad-hoc collection of civic activists, human rights workers, trade unionists, and disaffected farmers both white and black – simply does not have the capacity to launch a guerrilla war now if they wanted to. And by all public accounts, the MDC does not have the inclination, either.
"We'd be fools to do that right now, because we'd lose all credibility," says one senior MDC leader, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We are a democratic movement, and we are still trying to do things the right way."
If the Mugabe government seems a bit paranoid these days about external and internal threats, it may be because of the government's deep unpopularity and inability to handle the country's severe problems. Faced with rising inflation and lack of faith in Zimbabwe currency, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe simply prints more money. (The newest denomination, a $100 million bill, is equivalent to about $50 and would buy about 50 loaves of bread, if they could be found.)