US won’t budge on Zim sanctions

2010-05-11 09:50

Zimbabwe’s reform-minded Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday

urged the US to recognise Zimbawe’s democratic progress as he appeared to

suggest it ease sanctions.

But there was no sign US President Barack Obama’s administration

would ease sanctions targeted at President Robert Mugabe and his loyalists, the

people with whom Tsvangirai has shared power uneasily for more than a


The US – along with the European Union – maintains a travel ban and

asset freeze on Mugabe, his wife and inner circle in protest at controversial

elections and alleged human rights abuses by his government.

In an interview with AFP, Tsvangirai appeared to make the case for

at least an easing of US sanctions when he visited Washington for talks with US

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Tsvangirai said he came “to update her on the latest situation in

the country in terms of where the bottlenecks are, where progress has been made,

and what the United States should do”.

Tsvangirai said: “There should be a recognition by Washington that

there is progress but a perception that progress may not be sufficient to

convince the American government.”

He said he told Clinton: “It’s for you (the United States) to judge

us on the basis of what has been done on the ground, not the perception of

Mugabe. Mugabe is the past. We’re talking about the future of the


The reality, he said, is that Mugabe agreed last month to set up

commissions to open newspapers, establish a new independent electoral

commission, draft a new constitution and create a national healing


Tsvangirai said: “Surely that is sufficient confirmation of

Mugabe’s commitment to reform.”

He said that under article four of the global political agreement,

which led to the power-sharing arrangement in February last year, the sanctions

should be lifted when certain political conditions are met.

But Washington appeared circumspect about the premier’s visit: “The

secretary and prime minister discussed how we can best assist the people of

Zimbabwe and foster greater democratic reform and political opening in

Zimbabwe,” Clinton’s spokesperson Philip Crowley said.

A State Department official said on condition of anonymity that

Tsvangirai has been campaigning for an easing of sanctions even though basic

parts of the power-sharing agreement “have not been fulfilled” by Mugabe.

Mugabe has argued for easing sanctions in exchange for simply

talking about rather than actually making Tsvangirai’s opposition Movement for

Democratic Change (MDC) a full-fledged partner in the government.

The official said: “Unfortunately, Tsvangirai and some members of

the MDC seem to buy that argument and are willing to go out and engage in this

campaign to get the sanctions eased. The United States cannot do that.”

Tsvangirai earlier welcomed as “very positive” a Zimbabwean judge’s

acquittal of Roy Bennett, a top aide, in an alleged plot to topple Mugabe,

ending a trial that had threatened the fragile unity government.

Bennett, a white farmer, was arrested last year shortly before he

was due to be sworn in as deputy agriculture minister.

But the premier acknowledged other steps had to be taken to shore

up the fragile unity government.

In Harare last week, for example, Tsvangirai called for a speedy

resolution of major disagreements over key appointments as well as security

sector reform.

Clinton welcomed Tsvangirai’s return to Washington, after a trip

here in June last year in which Obama pledged $73?million in aid to Zimbawe to

develop basic services like water and sanitation on top of humanitarian


Clinton said: “We continue to support the efforts for reform and

positive changes inside Zimbabwe. And of course the prime minister has played a

major role in attempting to move his country on the right path.”

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