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from Global News Journal:

Crunch time for Zimbabwe

Southern African leaders have decided at a summit that Zimbabwe should form a unity government next month but the opposition said it was disappointed with the outcome, raising doubts over chances for ending the crisis.

The 15-nation SADC grouping said after the meeting in South Africa - its fifth attempt to secure a deal on forming a unity government - it had agreed that opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai should be sworn in as prime minister by Feb. 11.

All parties agreed control of the hotly disputed Home Affairs Ministry, which has been a major obstacle to a final agreement, should be divided between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai's MDC for six months, said South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.

But the MDC quickly issued a statement after the SADC communique was read out, making clear its disappointment and raising the possibility that deadlock would drag on as Zimbabweans face growing economic hardship. The MDC said its national council would meet this weekend to define its position on the summit.

Will Africa’s mega trade bloc take off?

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Three African trading blocs comprising some 527 million people and with an estimated gross domestic product of $624 billion, have agreed to move towards a free trade area. It would span 26 countries from Egypt to South Africa, and would go a long way towards streamlining some of the continent’s numerous trading blocs. Africa is home to some 30 regional trade arrangements, and on average each nation belongs to about four groups, according to international financial institutions. This has led to conflicting and overlapping agreements.

So in a move to ease some of these issues, heads of state who chair the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC),  met in the Ugandan capital to draw up a pact on integration, and eventually hoping to have a unified customs union. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said at the meeting’s opening that: “The greatest enemy of Africa, the greatest source of weakness has been disunity and a low level of political and economic integration.” The meeting’s final communiqué said a timeframe for integration would be considered in one year. Rwandan President Paul Kagame cautioned delegates that African nations must make sure to enforce the protocols and treaties that they’ve adopted. Heads of state at the meeting stressed the need to create economies of scale, bigger markets equal more opportunities to grow, they said.

What chance of success for Zimbabwe talks?

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rtr20ed8.jpgZimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC are holding talks in Pretoria aimed at thrashing out a power-sharing deal to end the country’s political crisis.

President Robert Mugabe, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and a smaller MDC faction signed a framework for the talks in South Africa on Monday — a deal that South African leader Thabo Mbeki said committed Zimbabwe’s political rivals to an intense timetable.

Is Zimbabwe back to square one after AU summit?

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zimbabwe_summit_mugabe1.jpgCan President Robert Mugabe be trusted to implement the resolution of the African Union summit calling for dialogue and a government of national unity to end Zimbabwe’s long-running crisis? According to Mugabe’s camp, he can. “The AU resolution is in conformity to what President Mugabe said at his inauguration, when he said we are prepared to talk in order to resolve our problems,” his Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told Reuters a day after the AU passed the resolution on July 1.

While opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Demoratic Change (MDC) say they have kept the door open for negotiations, he says conditions are not yet right for talks. The MDC also makes clear its objective is a transitional arrangement leading to fresh elections rather than a unity government.  The crisis could conceivably be stuck on that difference.

Has Zimbabwe’s Mugabe been bolstered or weakened by Tsvangirai’s decision to abandon poll?

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Morgan TsvangiraiOpposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s decision to abandon a controversial run-off ballot against Zimbabwe’s strongman President Robert Mugabe would surprise few. Western governments and aid agencies have for weeks voiced the same accusations of violence and intimidation against the Mugabe camp which Tsvangirai cited in concluding that a run-off election stood no chance of being free or fair.

Hours before Tsvangirai’s decision, his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) reported that its rally in the capital Harare had been broken up by pro-Mugabe youth militia, something Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party denied.

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