Do power-sharing deals really work for Africa?

09:49, February 17, 2010      

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While international mediators always hurry to prescribe power-sharing deals as quick-fix solutions in post-election conflicts, events in Zimbabwe and Kenya are proving that this may not be the best way to resolve political problems.

The parties may agree to a formula on the allocation and functions of government ministries, but there always remains one person wielding all the power and exercising most of the executive functions, thus perpetuating political bickering.

In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe last February entered into a power-sharing deal with the presidents of the two MDC factions, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.

This followed a contested presidential election in which Mugabe ran alone after Tsvangirai withdrew citing political violence, and the absence of an outright winner in the parliamentary and senate elections of 2008.

African leaders were quick to applaud especially Mugabe and Tsvangirai for agreeing to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) prescribed by then South African President Thabo Mbeki, who brokered the deal on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Although voters had made their choices over who should lead them, the power-sharing deal only served to prolong Mugabe's grip on power while accommodating Tsvangirai in the less powerful portfolio of prime minister.

In other words, power-sharing agreements are designed to keep incumbents in power while creating limited room in the government for their opponents.

Tsvangirai's party partially withdrew from the government in October 2009 protesting against unfulfilled promises by Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, but returned three weeks later after intervention by the SADC troika on politics, defense and security.

Under the GPA, Mugabe and Tsvangirai share executive powers. However, Mugabe and ministers from his party are largely calling the shots and determining the way the government should be run.

Even with two co-ministers of home affairs -- one from Mugabe's party and the other from Tsvangirai's -- the police chiefs have remained loyal to Mugabe and have often been accused by Tsvangirai' s party of engaging in partisan politics.

Army chiefs also do not have any regard for Tsvangirai, and a National Security Council established at the behest of Tsvangirai' s party to dilute their powers is hardly functional.

The deputy minister of justice and legal affairs and member of Tsvangirai's party, Jessie Majome, recently accused officials in her ministry of partiality when dealing with supporters of the different political parties, in what has been described as selective application of the law.

Majome is deputy to Zanu-PF's chief negotiator to the GPA Patrick Chinamasa. Among other responsibilities Mugabe chairs Cabinet; exercises executive authority; can, subject to the Constitution, declare war and make peace; can, subject to the Constitution, proclaim and terminate martial law; chairs the National Security Council; in consultation with the prime minister, makes key appointments in terms of the Constitution or any Act of Parliament; and may, acting in consultation with the prime minister, dissolve Parliament.

The prime minister's powers include chairing the Council of Ministers and being the deputy chairperson of Cabinet; exercising executive authority; overseeing the formulation of government policies by the Cabinet; and ensuring that the policies so formulated are implemented by the entirety of government.

However, the latest test on Tsvangirai's powers is his instruction to indigenization and empowerment minister to reverse recently gazetted regulations compelling majority ownership of private companies by indigenous Zimbabweans.

The Zanu-PF arm of the government is in favor of the regulations, while Tsvangirai's party is arguing that they are not meant to empower ordinary Zimbabweans but only a select few.

Here is one case where a minister has vowed not to reverse the regulations, setting him on a collision course with a person who is supposed to yield more powers than him.

While the inclusive government has generally succeeded in reducing tension among the political parties and their supporters, it has failed to create total peace and harmony as evidenced by some violent incidents occurring in some parts of the country.

Inclusive governments have failed in most of the African countries, with probably South Africa and Liberia being the two which successfully concluded their transitional roles.

Other African countries which have had post-conflict coalition governments include Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, while Madagascar is failing to implement one.

In Kenya, Prime Minister Raila Odinga who is also in a coalition government with President Mwai Kibaki is seeking the intervention of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan following a rift in the implementation of government policy.

Odinga on Sunday suspended agriculture minister William Ruto and education minister Sam Ongeri for three months to allow independent investigations into corruption charges leveled against them, only for Kibaki to revoke the suspensions. As a result, Odinga has declared a dispute among the coalition parties and wants Annan to intervene.

For how long then can leaders continue to seek intervention from outsiders to solve their problems? Is this prescription for inclusive governments really working or mediators seek easy solutions which they would also want to be subjected to in the event of a contested election?

The mediators always pray that the inclusive governments hold until the end of the transitional period. But what happens when one party decides to completely withdraw from such an arrangement?

Source: Xinhua
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