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Progress Fuels Hope In Zimbabwe

What a difference a year makes.

On April 18, Zimbabweans celebrated their national Independence Day, marking 29 years since gaining full self-determination from the United Kingdom. Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangarai, former political rivals and now colleagues in a transitional government, presided over ceremonies in the national stadium hailing the work done to rebuild the battered nation and pledging cooperation for future progress.

That's a far cry from Independence Day 2008 when the 2 men were locked in a bitter, sometimes violent presidential campaign, and the nation's serious social and economic problems went unaddressed.

Today, government work is getting done as civil servants are being paid at least modest sums and the hyperinflation that wiped out savings and businesses has ended with the adoption of the dollar and the rand as the nation's currencies. The improvement has fueled hopes among many Zimbabweans that Independence Day 2010 may be even better.

The United States, a strong supporter of Zimbabwean independence and the first country to open an embassy in the newly independent nation, shares in these hopes. In a statement on Independence Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commended the transitional government and the progress it has achieved toward reforms that will benefit the Zimbabwean people.

The effort is a work in progress, though. Political prisoners still languish in Zimbabwe's jails and there are continued violent attacks by Mugabe supporters on white-owned farms, once the backbone of one of the strongest agricultural sectors in Africa. There are still food shortages, and schools and hospitals need rebuilding.

The U.S. encourages the government to continue the important steps it has taken as it works for a more promising future for Zimbabwe. There has been progress, but much more needs to be done.