THE international community has welcomed the inauguration of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday, but remains sceptical about President Robert Mugabeâ€™s commitment to sharing power in the unity government.
Western powers said they would support the inclusive government once the new administration showed tangible signs of respect for human rights, the rule of law, and macro-economic stabilisation.
The European Union (EU), which tightened sanctions on Mugabe and his cronies a fortnight ago, said the inauguration of Tsvangirai was a â€œan important step towards democratic rule in the countryâ€.
â€œThe EU hopes that the formation of the new government will lead to an immediate end to political violence and intimidation…. and the stabilisation and recovery of Zimbabwe,â€ the 27-member bloc said while expressing deep concern over political prisoners detained on treason charges.
Zimbabwe Peace Project national director Jestina Mukoko and several MDC activists are still in custody facing charges of trying to overthrow the Zanu PF government. Their release has been a key demand of the new prime minister.
EU foreign and security policy high representative Javier Solana head said: â€œThe government of national unity of Zimbabwe will be judged by its commitment to reform and by the way in which the huge challenges before it are tackled. In the meantime, I would like to reiterate the EUâ€™s commitment to helping and supporting the Zimbabwean people.â€
European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel welcomed Tsvangiraiâ€™s inauguration and hoped that this would see an improvement in the humanitarian crisis in the country. Michel said: â€œAll parties within this power-sharing government must now work without delay to immediately improve the social and economic conditions for the people of Zimbabwe. Zimbabweâ€™s journey towards recovery will be long and difficult.
â€œThe new power-sharing government has a heavy responsibility to ensure positive change for its citizens. I can reassure the people of Zimbabwe that Europe will continue to offer its support to them as we have consistently done over many years.â€
The United Nations Childrenâ€™s Fund (Unicef) this week released staggering data revealing that 94% of schools in rural Zimbabwe remained closed and called for a prioritisation of the education sector by the new government.
Zimbabwe also currently faces a hyperinflation of more than 231 million percent and 94% unemployment.
The economic crisis has affected the healthcare system that seen the closure of a number of government hospitals and clinics. It is also faced with a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 3 400 people.
The USâ€™s Barrack Obama administration in extending its congratulations to Tsvangirai said it is waiting to see evidence of true power-sharing and effective governance before offering additional development assistance or easing its targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his key supporters.
Acting State Department spokesperson Robert Wood said the US would reserve its judgment on the new government until it sees what type of actions it takes.
â€œYou know, we will not consider providing additional development assistance or even easing sanctions until we see effective governance in the country.Â And thatâ€™s going to be key,â€ Wood said.
British ministers in the British House of Lords said they were cautious about the â€œworkabilityâ€ of the recent power-sharing agreement, but hoped that the MDC and Zanu PF could make it work.
â€œOur formal engagement, including the provision of donor support, will depend on the new governmentâ€™s ability to demonstrate, through their actions, a sustained commitment to reform,â€ the House heard.
Sadc and the African Union (AU) called for the immediate removal of economic sanctions against Zimbabwe.
South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, who is also the current Sadc chairperson, urged Western countries to lift the sanctions, promising that the region would help Zimbabwe in its economic recovery efforts. Motlanthe said: â€œSouth Africa reiterates the call for the lifting of sanctions against the country to help create a climate conducive for the reconstruction and development of Zimbabwe.â€Â
AU Commission chairperson Jean Ping urged Zanu PF and MDC to put their past behind and work together and also called upon the international community to help the system work.
â€œI call for the lifting of sanctions and help with humanitarian aid. I also call for help to revive the Zimbabwean economy,â€ he said.
King Mswati III of Swaziland, the deputy chairperson of the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security, also urged the international community to give the new government support.
â€œWithout international support, Zimbabweans alone cannot succeed in rehabilitating their country,â€ Mswati said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement described Tsvangiraiâ€™s swearing in as an important step in the implementation of the September 15 Global Peace Agreement and power-sharing accord between the Zimbabwean parties.
â€œThe new government of national unity will need to immediately address the economic and humanitarian crises in the country, including the current cholera epidemic,â€ he said.
Ban said the period ahead, will also be â€œcritical for consolidating human rights and democratic freedomsâ€ and that the UN will offer support to the new government in its recovery efforts to ease the suffering of Zimbabweans.
Russiaâ€™s foreign ministry welcomed Tsvangiraiâ€™s appointment as prime minister.
BY WONGAI ZHANGAZHA