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Christian Aid partners give cautious welcome to Harare deal

Christian Aid partner organisations in Zimbabwe have welcomed the power-sharing deal signed in the Zimbabwe today. But they warn that they will judge the deal on outcomes, not words.

Under the power-sharing agreement Robert Mugabe will remain as president while the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai becomes prime minister and chairs a council of ministers supervising the cabinet.

The humanitarian situation is particularly grave. Curbs on aid agencies imposed in June 2008 prior to the presidential election run-off mean that fewer than 20 per cent of the more than four million people in need have received help.

‘It is a deeply serious situation, so many people desperately need food,’ says Useni Sibanda, coordinator of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA), a Christian Aid partner organisation.

Mr Sibanda said the deal could ‘change the landscape in Zimbabwe’. While there are urgent economic and political measures which must be taken, he says the church also has a very important role to play.

‘We are keen that the process of national healing start immediately. We need a framework for a truth telling process that will bring peace and reconciliation to Zimbabwe.’

Mr Sibanda says the church in the community has a major role to play; the recent electoral violence has caused a significant population displacement which has resulted in a high degree of mistrust.

‘We must start the process of restorative justice at the community level. So many of our communities are broken; people have been displaced by their neighbours. There is a lot trauma amongst our people.’

The make-up of the commission on the new constitution must also be transparent and inclusive.

‘We have to start working on the framework for the new constitution, it is essential to ensuring we are truly on the road to recovery.’

Basic foodstuffs, including maize meal and bread, are often in short supply in Zimbabwe, which was once one of Africa's leading agricultural producers.

About 80 per cent of the country's 12.3m people are unemployed and many depend on food aid.

Prior to the food aid ban, many Zimbabweans were already suffering from food shortages and rampant inflation.

Millions of dollars in western-donor aid is expected, if President Mugabe proves genuine about sharing power and beginning to end Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For more information contact Florence Mutesasira in Dublin on 086 1609405 or fmutesasira@christian-aid.org or Adrian Horsman in Belfast on 028 9038 1204 or ahorsman@christian-aid.org.