Sanctions Threaten Zimbabwe Unity Government

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Another local commentator said it is “extremely evil, dictatorial and an abortion of justice” for President Obama to want to keep sanctions on Zimbabwe when Zimbabweans themselves have agreed to settle their political differences.

[Global: Africa News]

SIFELANI TSIKO REPORTS FOR THE BLACK STAR NEWS FROM HARARE—A rare show of political maturity and unity has Zimbabweans feeling hopeful about the country’s prospects.

Yet, unless the Western economic sanctions are lifted soon, all recent gains by the Unity Government will slide and collapse, analysts here warn.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai led the nation in celebrating the 29th independence celebrations; for the first time millions who had grown weary about political animosity between the country’s two major political parties can have something different to talk about.

All this was unthinkable at the height of tension between Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change. Thousands of people from different political persuasion thronged the giant National Sports Stadium to celebrate independence day on April 18.

"I call on all Zimbabweans to dedicate themselves on this sacred day to national unity and reconciliation," Mugabe told the crowd. "As Zimbabweans, we need to create an environment of tolerance, and treat one another with dignity and decency, irrespective of age, gender, race, and ethnicity----political or religious affiliation. This also means an end to those instances of violence that needlessly caused untold harm to several members of our society."

The sanctions regime could now make or break all the recent gains.

The veteran leader also called on the West should lift sanctions saying there was no reason why the sanctions should continue to burden the people of Zimbabwe. The Deputy Prime Minister in the unity government, Arthur Mutambara, has also condemned the sanctions saying they were unnecessary and would threaten the inclusive government.

Tsvangirai himself added his voice against the sanctions in his inaugural address to the Parliament of Zimbabwe in March. "I therefore urge the international community to recognize our efforts and to note the progress that we make in this regard, and to match our progress by moving towards the removal of restrictive measures," he said, to applause from legislators.

Most Zimbabweans have roundly condemned the extension of sanctions by US President Barack Obama. President Obama maintains that nothing has changed to warrant the lifting of the sanctions encapsulated in the US government’s so-called Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act.

"I am continuing for one year the national emergency with respect to the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe," President Obama said, announcing the renewal of sanctions early in March. Washington first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2003, and then expanded them in 2005 and 2008.

"The crisis constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions has not been resolved," Obama said in separate message to Congress.

"These actions and policies pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States. For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue this national emergency and to maintain in force the sanctions to respond to this threat."

University of Zimbabwe political analyst, Prof. Eldred Masunungure said the sanctions which were instruments of US foreign policy were ill-timed. "The renewal of the sanctions will cause friction in the all-inclusive government as under the Global Political Agreement, it was made clear that the removal of sanctions was one of the priorities," he said to a local daily.

"It is now obvious that there will be friction between Zanu PF and MDC-T. This is a very sensitive issue that has been done by the United States, it is going to cause a lot of misunderstanding and it does not lubricate the running of the new government."

The European Union has said it will not lift sanctions against Zimbabwe until the new government "fully complies" with the terms of the power-sharing deal while the Southern African Development Community and the African Union have repeatedly called for the lifting of the sanctions since the formation of the inclusive government.

Last week, the United States lifted travel warnings issued to its citizens against Zimbabwe in 2002 after Japan lifted travel warnings on Zimbabwe raising hopes in the country’s ailing tourism industry. It’s a modest gesture that has raised hopes that sanctions would be lifted at some point.

In a surprising but hopeful message on Zimbabwe’s Independence Day, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commended the unity government for progress in implementing reforms, but said more must be done.

"I congratulate the people of Zimbabwe on the twenty-ninth anniversary of their country’s independence on April 18. The United States has long stood with the people of Zimbabwe in their times of need and will continue to do so."

She added: "We commend the efforts the transitional government has undertaken and the progress it has achieved towards reforms that will benefit the Zimbabwean people. The United States encourages the government to continue those important steps as it works for a more promising future for Zimbabwe."

"When US President Barrack Obama took over the White House on January 20, 2009, there were sticking issues in international relations and many looked up to this Apostle of change with the optimism of seeing a world far different from the one that had been created by the political lunacy of George W. Bush," said Reason Wafawarova, a Zimbabwean political commentator.

"But now the Obama administration is following the age-old script. ‘Zimbabwe must move forward.’ The script is not going to change on the part of the Western alliance. Zimbabwe cannot avoid the effect of the script because nationalistic policies like the land reform program are absolutely unforgivable under the script."

Another local commentator said it is "extremely evil, dictatorial and an abortion of justice" for President Obama to want to keep sanctions on Zimbabwe when Zimbabweans themselves have agreed to settle their political differences. "Sanctions are hurting ordinary Zimbabweans and the US should lift them to allow Zimbabwe to work again."

"Credit lines and other important investment policy options stand blocked by the US action. If the US lifts the sanctions, the EU will follow suit and this might open floodgates of opportunities for Zimbabwe," noted the commentator.

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