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Rock-paper-scissors in Zimbabwe's deal

The children's game holds a lesson for the country's new power-sharing agreement.

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As a power-sharing deal in Zimbabwe was inked Monday, supporters of strongman Robert Mugabe raised their fists in salute. Opposition followers waved open hands. The two gestures – one defiant and one hopeful – hint at the tension underlying this unlikely political marriage in a country where democracy in Africa has been on trial.

As with Kenya's new unity government formed earlier this year, the most welcome aspect of Zimbabwe's grand coalition is an end to political violence. The brutality was triggered by March elections that resulted in massive government interference in a June runoff.

Beyond a return to calm, it's impossible to know whether this team of enemies can find the trust and will to restore one of Africa's most troubled nations to the jewel it once was.

The deal defies the will of voters since it leaves significant power in the hands of Mr. Mugabe, the octogenarian autocrat who has ruled and ruined this once humming commercial and agricultural engine in southern Africa.

Mugabe, at the helm of Zimbabwe for nearly three decades, will stay on as president and head a cabinet of 31 ministers – with the balance of power slightly tipped to the divided opposition. Morgan Tsvangirai, who heads the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), becomes prime minister, handling the country's mountain-sized problems. He'll also lead a sort of über council to oversee Mugabe's cabinet. Whether this cumbersome tandem of ministers will pull together or pull apart remains to be seen.


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