Home » General » Obama Extends Zimbabwe Sanctions but UK Softens, Seeks to Re-Engage

President Barack Obama has extended sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and members of his inner circle at a time the British government is dispatching its secretary for international development to Zimbabwe for meetings with the Harare regime.

Mugabe’s Zanu PF party expectedly condemned Washington’s “arrogance” while welcoming London’s overtures to improve relations which have remained frosty since western countries imposed sanctions to punish Mugabe for alleged rights abuses and electoral fraud, charges the 91-year-old leader denies.

A cabinet minister said it was “irrational” that Obama would continue to punish Zimbabwe while moving to re-engage with Cuba.

In a statement Wednesday, Obama confirmed that Washington was extending sanctions first imposed in 2003, arguing that Mugabe and his acolytes continue to undermine “Zimbabwe’s democratic processes.”

Said the US leader “The threat 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

“These actions and policies continue to pose an 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.

However, in a positive development for Harare, the UK confirmed that International development secretary Mark Lowcock would this week travel to Zimbabwe for meetings with finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and other senior government officials.

“The UK remains committed to supporting Zimbabwe’s poorest people and to doing what we can to reinforce democracy, stability and prosperity here,” said Lowcock in a statement.

Shared values

The ruling Zanu PF party’s UK chairman, Nick Mangwana, welcomed the visit saying neither country could afford to walk away from their shared history.

“There have been differences in the past but everyone is making an effort to normalise relations for the benefit of both parties,” Mangwana told NewZimbabwe.com.

He said since the Conservative-led government came to power, there has been a progressive thawing of relations which were damaged by the former Labour government’s refusal to fund land reforms in Zimbabwe and the subsequent violent farm seizures.

“There is a political will from both sides to find each other and narrow the gap,” said Mangwana.

“It’s no longer just about people of British descent living in Zimbabwe, it also about Zimbabweans and people of Zimbabwean origin living in Britain and there are many of these.

“So even though the relationship started as that of a coloniser and the colonised it has moved from there in the last 5 years toward that of two countries with shared values.”

He added “Of course, once in a while we get bombastic rhetoric from both sides but people should not read too much into that. It is just politics. Behind the scenes there is a lot of mutual reaching out.”

Meanwhile, in Harare, Obama’s decision to extend US sanctions was received with dismay.

U.S arrogance

Said former ambassador Chris Mutsvangwa who is now a cabinet minister “This is arrogance of the highest order.

“There is no justification whatsoever for the US to extend these sanctions and in any case, they are not hurting President Mugabe but ordinary Zimbabweans.

“I urge Washington to reconsider its position for the development of ordinary Zimbabweans.”

Mutsvangwa rejected Obama’s claim that Zimbabwe remained a threat to US foreign policy.

“The irrational behaviour of the US to renew sanctions and label Zimbabwe as a foreign policy threat, was a classic case of errant behaviour by a giant,” he said.

“How a country with only 12 million people can threaten a world superpower is a mental aberration of first order.

“With Cuban policy being revised, why this petulance with Zimbabwe?”

Source : New Zimbabwe