Zimbabwe: Mugabe to Step Down?

1 April 2008

A deal is being negotiated in Zimbabwe in which President Robert Mugabe would step down after being in power for nearly 28 years, news agencies reported Tuesday.

The BBC cited opposition sources on the news. Reuters quoted a U.S. State Department spokesman as saying there were "supposedly at various levels... discussions" between opposition and government representatives.

But the strongest report came from Agence France-Presse, reporting comments from what it called a senior source in Mugabe's Zanu PF.

"He [Mugabe] is prepared to step down because he doesn't want to embarrass himself by going to a run-off," AFP quoted the source as saying. The source added: ""There is only one person still blocking him, the army chief of staff."

Three weeks ago, General Constantine Chiwenga told the Zimbabwe Standard newspaper the army would not support anyone other than Mugabe as president.

"Elections are coming and the army will not support or salute sell-outs and agents of the West before, during and after the presidential elections," the Standard reported him as saying in a telephone interview.

Asked to comment on the role of the army in a democracy, the Standard wrote Chiwenga responded angrily: "Are you mad? What is wrong with the army supporting the President against the election of sellouts?"

The AFP said senior diplomats in Harare had confirmed the news, and that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was ready to hold a news conference to announce the deal.

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