Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, celebrated independence from Britain together for the first time on Saturday, a possible sign that political tensions are easing. Their cooperation is vital if Zimbabwe is to rebuild an economy that has been ravaged by hyperinflation and unemployment at around 90 percent. Millions need food aid and the country’s infrastructure and institutions are a shambles.

The image of Mugabe and Tsvangirai standing together to celebrate the 29th anniversary of the end to colonial rule would have been unthinkable during years of hostilities between them. But Tsvangirai’s MDC says some hardliners in Mugabe’s ZANU-PF are still trying to scuttle the coalition government which the two men formed in February.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commended Zimbabwe’s unity government on Saturday for progress in implementing reforms, but said more must be done. In a message to the Zimbabwean people, timed to coincide with the anniversary, Clinton made no mention of when or whether the United States would lift sanctions or offer substantial aid to help rebuild the shattered nation.

“We commend the efforts the transitional government has undertaken and the progress it has achieved towards reforms that will benefit the Zimbabwean people,” Clinton said. Tsvangirai, a former trade unionist, rose to become the biggest threat to Mugabe’s tight grip on power as leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).



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