Africa pressures West over Zim sanctions

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Harare (New Ziana) – Calls for the West to lift sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe grew louder this week, with African states, in a strong show of continental solidarity, leading the charge at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.

The European Union, US, and Britain imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe two decades ago to force the government to abandon its land reforms in which excess white-owned farmland was compulsorily acquired to resettle landless blacks to economically empower them.

The sanctions, targeting both the economy and individual Zimbabweans seen as central to decision-making in government, are estimated to have cost the country up to US$100 billion.

Recent token lifting of the sanctions, mainly travel restrictions on deceased Zimbabweans by the United States, failed to sway African resolve at the UN General Assembly for the total removal of the devastating penalties.

A week before the General Assembly meeting, the US delisted 11 Zimbabweans from its sanctions list, because they were “either deceased or have been deemed to no longer undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions.”

But, unimpressed by the US gesture, African leaders led by current African Union (AU) chairman and President of Senegal, Macky Sall, took gloves off to fight against the Western sanctions in Zimbabwe’s corner at the UN meeting this week.

“The AU again calls for the lifting of foreign sanctions against Zimbabwe. These harsh measures continue to be an injustice against an entire people and aggravate their suffering in these times of deep crisis,” the Senegalese leader said.

His Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) counterpart and Southern African Development Community (Sadc) chairman, Felix Tshisekedi, told the UN General Assembly the sanctions against Zimbabwe were outdated.

“We have questions over the maintenance of sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe; these sanctions which date back to the era of the late President Robert Mugabe. Why is our organisation so silent and so indifferent to this injustice and crime against innocent people?” he asked the world body.

“As the current chairman of the Southern African Development Committee, I call upon the UN to do everything possible to achieve the immediate lifting of sanctions against the Republic of Zimbabwe and its people.”

South Africa’s International Relations Minister, Naledi Pandor, who stood in for President Cyril Ramaphosa at the UN meeting, said: “In the same vein (with calls for Palestinian statehood) we call for an end to unilateral cohesive measures against Zimbabwe which have compounded the problems experienced by the people of Zimbabwe and have a detrimental effect on the broader Southern African region.”

Pandor’s comments came a few days after President Ramaphosa pointedly told US President Joe Biden during a visit to the White House that sanctions against Zimbabwe were a huge burden on the country’s economy.

Namibian President Hage Geingob also weighed in, telling the UN General Assembly that whatever Zimbabwe’s past crimes were, the time was now ripe to remove the sanctions.

“President Emerson Mnangagwa and the people of Zimbabwe have made a lot of progress and reforms. They should be given a chance to succeed without the weight of sanctions,” he said.

Even newly elected Kenyan President William Ruto, who was making his maiden address to the UN, also came out fighting in Zimbabwe’s corner.

“There might never be a more opportune time to revisit the practice of unilateral coercive actions, which often violate fundamental tenets of a rule based international order, such as those imposed on Zimbabwe and Cuba. Apart from undermining the sovereign equality of nations, they also indiscriminately punish the general citizenry, reserving their bitterness for innocent hustlers and the vulnerable. This compounds injustice and worsens suffering,” he told the UN meeting.

Argentina also reminded the General Assembly that the use of unilateral coercive measures was against the UN Charter.

“According to the United Nations Charter, the only legitimate sanctions are those imposed by the Security Council to enforce its decisions in the maintenance of peace and security.”

Buoyed by African and other support, President Emmerson Mnangagwa told the General Assembly that the long-running sanctions were hampering his government’s efforts to turn-around the economy, to develop the country and improve the livelihoods of the generality of Zimbabweans.

Worse, he said, they were interfering in Zimbabwe’s achievement of universal UN development goals, such as greater access to health, education and food for the country’s citizens.

“Zimbabwe is a peace-loving country. We remain indebted to the SADC region and the African Union, as well as other progressive members in the comity of nations for their unwavering support and calls for the removal of these unwarranted and unjustified sanctions. We once again call for their immediate and unconditional removal,” he said.

“My country welcomes the findings of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of the Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights, who visited Zimbabwe in 2021,” President Mnangagwa said, referring to a recent UN study which showed the multi-dimensional devastating impact of the sanctions on the country.

“At the international level, Zimbabwe has adopted an Engagement and Re-engagement Policy. This Policy is underpinned by the principles of mutual understanding and respect, cooperation, partnership and shared values with other members of the international community. We desire to be a friend to all and an enemy to none.”

However, President Mnangagwa said despite the sanctions, Zimbabwe would continue doing its best to forge ahead with its development agenda.
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