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Zimbabwe's parliament passes unity bill

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  • Hopes raised after parliament passes unity government resolution
  • Bill creates the new post of prime minister, to be filled by Morgan Tsvangirai
  • Tsvangirai is scheduled to be sworn in to office February
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HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- In a move that many hope signals the beginning of the end of the political and economic crises that have gripped Zimbabwe for months, the parliament Thursday unanimously passed a resolution to form a unity government with President Robert Mugabe and the opposition.

Robert Mugabe arrives at a meeting Sunday in Ethiopia, where he was attending the African Union summit.

Robert Mugabe arrives at a meeting Sunday in Ethiopia, where he was attending the African Union summit.

The bill creates the new post of prime minister, to be filled by Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), while Mugabe retains the presidency.

Those details were worked out in a power-sharing deal Tsvangirai signed with Mugabe last September, after months of squabbling about the results of elections earlier in the year.

But the agreement failed to take hold as the two sides argued over the control of key ministries such as defense, home affairs, information and foreign affairs.

Tsvangirai is scheduled to be sworn in to office February 11, the date set by regional Southern African Development Community leaders last month when they met to resolve the impasse between the two men.

Introducing the bill in parliament Thursday, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa declared it was a "miracle" that the measure had finally come to a vote.

"This is a historic occasion that seeks to form an inclusive government. It is been a long, frustrating and bumpy journey... I urge honorable members to take a giant leap of faith into the future by supporting the bill," Chinamasa said of the measure, which still must be signed by Mugabe.

"With the enactment of this bill, the train of the inclusive government will be leaving the station. Let bygones be bygones so that we can address the issues afflicting the country," the minister added.

MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti described the passing of the constitutional amendment as "historic."

"Many of us in this chamber are not sure if this is a right decision. But it is not about right or wrong decisions. Do we have any other choice? Zimbabweans are suffering, dying or fleeing the country in the thousands. Let us give this experiment a chance.

"This agreement has to give people of Zimbabwe hope against poverty that they are going through everyday. None of us has a choice but to support this bill," Biti said.

Zimbabweans and outsiders alike are also hopeful the implementation of the new government will help heal the country's crippling economic crisis and eroding humanitarian situation, both seen as the worst since the once-prosperous nation gained its independence from Great Britain in 1980.

A ravaging cholera epidemic has claimed close to 4,000 lives and infected about 65,000 people since August, aggravated by a lack of water treatment chemicals and a problem with waste disposal in much of the country.

Disease is not the only problem facing Zimbabweans. The United Nations says more than 5 million people are in need of food aid, in a country that has shortages of all essentials ranging from fuel, electricity and cash.

The shortages have created a fertile environment for inflation. The country recorded the highest level of inflation in the world in July, at 231 million percent. The price of goods rises at least once daily, and Monday the central bank slashed 12 zeros from the value of its currency, making the $1 trillion note now worth $1.

Last week the government announced that all business in the country could be conducted with foreign currency -- something most businesses already did.

All About ZimbabweRobert MugabeMorgan Tsvangirai

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