Tsvangirai’s appeal for help falls on deaf European ears ?

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Morgan Tsvangirai, invested as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe as part of a power-sharing deal with his bitter rival, President Robert Mugabe, called for international support to help the raise the country off its economic haunches at the signing of the agreement in the capital, Harare.

Thanking his allies both home and abroad for their support, Tsvangirai, who introduced himself in his speech as “I, the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe”, appealed for assistance towards Zimbabwe’s economic reconstruction, as well as redressing the educational and health care systems. Feeding the country’s starving population, he said, is “the first priority of the government”.

Tsvangirai said, “I have signed this agreement because I believe it represents the best opportunity for us to build a peaceful, prosperous, democratic Zimbabwe. I have signed this agreement because my belief in Zimbabwe and its peoples runs deeper than the scars I bear from the struggle. I have signed this agreement because my hope for the future is stronger than the grief I feel for the needless suffering of the past years.”

In a statement, Charles Abani, Regional Director of Oxfam in Southern Africa said that delaying aid was “not an option”. Further calling on the international community to provide a transparent and carefully coordinated support and assistance to the new coalition government, so as not to overstretch the weak state institutions.

The agricultural sector, according to the statement, needs more than just money to be thrown at it as the problem cannot be simply solved in that manner. Immediate attention was called for, considering that farmers were in dire need of fertilisers and seeds to prepare for the November planting season. “Zimbabwe needs a long-term plan, built on partnership and shared responsibilities, and supported by long-term, predictable aid from international governments,” Abani continued.

Falling on deaf ears

Notwithstanding the Zimbabwean change and Tsvangirai’s appeal for immediate assistance, the council of European Union member states is said to have adopted a wait-and-see approach before lifting any of the punitive measures instituted against Mugabe’s government. The council insists that it would “pay close attention” to the implementation of the power-sharing deal “which will imply the immediate end to all forms of intimidation and violence”. The council is expected to examine the development of the Zimbabwean situation at its next meeting on October 13.

“All discussion on [EU] sanctions, more or less, is on hold until we see the details of the deal, and until we see the deal translated into action on the ground,” British foreign minister David Miliband said.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, from France, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Monday said that the Fund was ready to hold talks with the country’s leaders.

Zimbabwe, once prosperous, faces an economic meltdown in which inflation is officially estimated at more than 11 million percent, unemployment is above 80 percent, there are shortages of food, electricity, fuel and foreign currency, and the UN forecasts that more than five million of the country’s 12 million people will need food assistance in the first quarter of 2009.

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