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Reach out to Zimbabwe's generals

The military's fear of retribution threatens a fragile power-sharing deal.

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Zimbabwe's political power-sharing deal – the hope of that tattered country – is on the verge of collapse. Big-man leader Robert Mugabe has grabbed the mightiest ministries for himself, handing paltry leftovers to the opposition. But the problem is not that Mr. Mugabe won't share. It's that his top generals fear what will happen to them if he does.

The fear is typical of perpetrators of violence and suppression whose influence is coming to an end. In Africa, it gripped military and political leaders in Rwanda, Burundi, and Liberia, to name a few countries once cleaved by civil war and atrocities.

It didn't come to civil war in Zimbabwe, which not long ago was a prosperous nation, and now suffers searing inflation, joblessness, and hunger. But its citizens well remember the burned homes, beatings, rapes, and killings by President Mugabe's security forces in the run-up to last June's presidential election.

Had the campaign been fair and safe, Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), would have likely ousted Mugabe, who has ruled for 28 years. Instead, Mr. Tsvangirai signed a deal last month that allows his nemesis to stay on as president, while he takes the post of prime minister. Cabinet ministries are to be almost evenly divided between Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and his rivals.


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