Zimbabwe Tsvangirai Sworn In As PM

Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister Wednesday, five months since he and President Robert Mugabe agreed to share power following last year's disputed presidential election. The development comes as Zimbabwe suffers through a cholera outbreak.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And now to Zimbabwe, where political resolution of a sort was achieved today, almost a year after the disputed elections that led to an eruption of state-sponsored violence.

President Robert Mugabe swore in his opposition rival as the nation's prime minister. Today's inauguration of a unity government took months of negotiations. And throughout that time, Mugabe has seemed unwilling to relinquish any power. And questions still remain over how this new partnership will work. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is in Harare, and she joins us now. Ofeibea, today's event marks a major change in Zimbabwe, a country that has been under one ruler since independence nearly 30 years ago. It sounds like there are a lot of challenges ahead.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: Oh, phenomenal challenges here in Zimbabwe. I mean, this is a country with a political crisis, a humanitarian one, an economic one, as well as all the other problems it has lived through in recent years.

But there was a real feeling at State House - where the swearing-in of Morgan Tsvangirai happened - of elation, and a huge collective sigh of relief among Zimbabweans, after months of waiting to see whether a power-sharing government would happen. Of course, we don't know whether it's going to work, but at least they've taken a first step.

NORRIS: Now, Morgan Tsvangirai addressed his supporters in a rally after the ceremony. He admitted that this political marriage wasn't exactly perfect, but he said it is workable. And in what you could read as a swipe at Robert Mugabe's leadership, he said that he would work toward righting the wrongs of the past. How does he plan to do that?

QUIST-ARCTON: I think by helping Zimbabweans. Tsvangirai said, for example, this country, where inflation is running at some ridiculous percent, that he's now going to pay civil servants in foreign exchange so that they can buy food to put on the table for their families. So that they can send their children to school. So he's making huge promises. Whether he'll be able to deliver on these pledges is another thing altogether.

NORRIS: We've been talking about the political obstacles that this new partnership will face, but there are many other obstacles, as well. Zimbabwe is facing tremendous challenges: A devastating cholera epidemic, widespread hunger, 90 percent joblessness and unparalleled hyper-inflation of 231 million percent - just that number is incredible. Ofeibea, what do they try to tackle first?

QUIST-ARCTON: They're going to have to deal with all these priorities simultaneously. But, I think, first is going to have to be the cholera crisis -a treatable disease. But because the healthcare system has completely broken down, infrastructure has collapsed, people are dying of a disease they should not be dying of.

Now everybody was saying the former political rivals, the regional leaders, international visitors and diplomats, that Zimbabweans have got to work together. And President Robert Mugabe is saying, now lift these sanctions and use the international community. Help us to help ourselves.

NORRIS: Ofeibea, thank you very much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you.

NORRIS: That was NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, speaking to us from Harare, Zimbabwe.

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