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Zimbabwe's transitional government marked its first 100 days in office recently, and its leaders can be justly proud of the progress so far. Since President Robert Mugabe grudgingly agreed to share power with Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister, the economy has begun to stabilize, hospitals and schools have gradually reopened, government workers are receiving modest amounts, and food is increasingly available in shops again. Given Zimbabwe’s total collapse in 2008, the country has come far.
But while improvements have been made in these areas, hard-line factions within the government continue to stymie comprehensive reform. Zimbabweans are still being detained for their political beliefs and activities, and the nation's agricultural sector, once among the most productive in Africa, is in shambles due to ongoing farm invasions and government mismanagement. The country's humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate in the wake of a major cholera epidemic, among other factors.
Zimbabwe's friends in the international community have been quick to address the country's humanitarian needs and will continue to do so. According to the United Nations, donor nations have provided more than $246 million since November for medical, feeding and other relief programs there. The U.S. has provided more than $150 million in humanitarian aid so far in fiscal year 2009.
While the government has requested financial aid beyond humanitarian assistance, unresolved problems in implementing the power-sharing agreement raise doubts that any funds provided directly to the government would reach those who need it most. In light of the Mugabe regime's disastrous record of handling the nation's finances and caring for those in need, those doubts are justified.
The United States is closely monitoring the government's progress with regard to providing development assistance in the future. But at this point, much more work needs to be done. Foremost, there must be movement toward democracy, true power sharing and a commitment to human rights and respect for due process. Zimbabwe is seeing real change, but the journey is just beginning.