Nearly a year after disputed elections in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe has sworn in Morgan Tsvangirai, his archrival, as prime minister.
Mugabe has ruled the country for nearly 30 years, and he has always resisted sharing power. While he has finally relented, the country is suffering an economic meltdown, and it's far from clear whether this new arrangement will work.
There was an atmosphere of hope and much relief — as well as an element of disbelief — on Wednesday as Zimbabweans witnessed Mugabe administering the oath of office to Tsvangirai at the elegant colonial statehouse in Harare, the capital.
Many said this was an extraordinary event. As leader of the opposition, Zimbabwe's new prime minister, Tsvangirai, had not so very long ago been beaten and harassed by Mugabe's thugs, with state-sponsored violence against the president's political opponents.
Both men agreed to work together in the interests of their people, though Tsvangirai acknowledged that it was not an ideal settlement and the political marriage would not be easy.
"There can be no turning back on the political agreement which each party has signed, knowing it is not a perfect agreement, but still a workable one — an agreement that, if implemented with the good faith, will deliver a peaceful way forward toward a stable economy, a new constitution and a free and a fair election," he told the audience.
Implementation of the transitional coalition cabinet came only after intense pressure from Zimbabwe's neighbors, who feared total meltdown across their borders. Mugabe remains president, but with Tsvangirai as prime minister demanding real authority to govern in a decidedly wobbly political union.
Zimbabwe faces insurmountable challenges: a collapsed economy, unparalleled hyper-inflation, 90 percent unemployment, widespread hunger and a devastating cholera epidemic that has killed 3,500 people since August.
President Mugabe said the rival parties should build on the power-sharing deal by turning swords into plowshares, after traveling a long and tedious road.
"I offer my hand of friendship, warm cooperation and solidarity in the service of our great country and people. If yesterday we were adversaries, today we stand in united. Today is a great and historic day for Zimbabwe," he said.
But the swearing-in of Tsvangirai as prime minister is only the first step. It caps nearly a year of turmoil in Zimbabwe and protracted power-sharing negotiations, following a disputed presidential vote.
Tsvangirai has laid ambitious priorities to turn around Zimbabwe's fortunes and has vowed to take immediate steps to fix the economy.
But, addressing thousands of cheering supporters in a stadium in Harare — some hanging from light towers and trees — Tsvangirai warned that progress in Zimbabwe depended on respect for human rights and an end to political violence.
"Let's not have pseudo-democracy. On one hand, you pretend that you shall guarantee people's freedoms. On the other, you are the very violator of those people's freedoms. This must end," he said, in a remark seen as a swipe at Mugabe — and a warning that he must not undermine urgently needed reform in Zimbabwe.