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Zimbabwe's 100-day plan to lift economic embargo, court donors

The government says it will ease media ban as part of an effort to reengage with the West. But the US and Europe are dubious.

By Ian EvansContributor to The Christian Science Monitor / April 6, 2009

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (l.) and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai opened a three-day conference in Victoria Falls with a handshake. Western donors are looking for more evidence of unity, cooperation, and stability in the country.

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Cape Town, South Africa

On Sunday, at a special three-day conference in a Victoria Falls luxury hotel, Zimbabwe's government ministers said they'd given themselves 100 days to end the nation's international isolation by normalizing relations with the European Union (EU), Britain, the US, and white Commonwealth countries.

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"Reengagement of the broader international community, including the US and multilateral institutions, will be a priority of the government in the next 100 days," said Gorden Moyo, minister of state in the office of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told Reuters at the conference.

Part of the initiative, also designed to revive the economy, would introduce greater freedom and ownership rules for the news media, improved prison conditions, and a possible new constitution.

In return, the unity government made up of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change is seeking $8.5 billion from international donors for its short-term emergency recovery program.

West looking for real change

But analysts interviewed for this article are skeptical that the plan alone will induce Western donors, who seek evidence of real change within the shattered country, to dispense much aid immediately.

"Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe both realize they need foreign money to reverse the economic situation in Zimbabwe, and the only way they can do that is to show unity and cooperate," says John Akokpari, a senior lecturer in political studies at the University of Cape Town.

A key need, adds Dr. Akokpari, is to strengthen the rule of law in Zimbabwe, where invasions of white-owned farms continue by so-called war veterans who are egged on by Mr. Mugabe. There are only an estimated 100 white commercial farmers left in Zimbabwe, down from 4,500 when the president began his controversial land seizures in 2000. Tsvangirai warned two weeks ago that he would take "tough action" against invasions in the future, but farm leaders say the invasions are continuing and are going unpunished.

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