African countries demand lifting of US-led Zimbabwe sanctions
African countries are pushing the United States and other Western governments to end their two decades-long economic sanctions against Zimbabwe which continue to impact negatively on the people of this country.
The African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other African countries issued a strong-worded solidarity messages as Zimbabwe marked its ‘Anti-Sanctions Day’ on October 25.
SADC in 2018 set aside October 25 to lobby against the embargo that was imposed during the Robert Mugabe era for alleged human rights violations and electoral fraud.
Immediate unconditional removal
AU chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said the continental body was demanding the “immediate and unconditional removal of sanctions imposed against the Republic of Zimbabwe.”
Mr Mahamat said he remained “concerned by the negative impacts of continued sanctions on the country’s socio-economic development and recovery efforts.”
He said the AU will continue working “closely with SADC to support all regional efforts” in fighting against the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.
SADC chairperson and Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera while urging Western countries to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe, urged the country to engage in “constructive dialogue with a view to consolidating the rule of law, democracy, governance and human rights.”
“It is only through such exchanges that better appreciation of concerns of all parties could be secured and progress towards their resolution be achieved,” President Chakwera said.
Alena Douhan, a United Nations special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, this week also called for an end to the embargo against Zimbabwe after a 10-day fact finding mission in the country.
“The US and other states should lift their sanctions on targeted individuals and entities and end over-compliance,” Pro Douhan from Belarus said in her preliminary report.
“The time is ripe for sanctioning states and key national stakeholders to engage in meaningful structured dialogue on political reform, human rights and the rule of law, and abandon rhetoric on sanctions as an advocacy tool.”
China says sanctions illegal
China has also joined African countries in demanding the immediate end of the US-led economic blockade against Zimbabwe.
Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Affairs ministry spokesperson, described the sanctions against Zimbabwe as “illegitimate and unilateral.”
“We once again solemnly call on certain organisations, including the US, to lift illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe as soon as possible and focus more on helping Zimbabweans fight the Covid-19 pandemic and resume economic development and play a constructive role in promoting Africa’s peace and development,” Mr Wang said.
Land reform program
The US-led sanctions were first imposed in 2000 after Zimbabwe embarked on the land reform program during which the country re-possessed land from minority white farmers for redistribution to landless indigenous Zimbabweans.
US sanctions against Zimbabwe prohibit Americans from engaging in any transactions or dealings with people or government-linked institutions on a sanctions list that is reviewed annually.
While the United States argues that sanctions are targeted on a few individuals and entities, the Zimbabwean government says the impact of sanctions is being felt throughout the whole economy.
On the other hand, the European Union in 2002 imposed a travel ban on Mugabe and dozen other government officials following a disputed presidential election.
US, EU and other Western missions in Zimbabwe issued statements claiming that the sanctions were hurting ordinary people.
The Western countries insist that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government must implement political and economic reforms for the sanctions to be removed.
Last Monday in the capital Harare, a local anti-sanctions lobby group Broad Alliance Against Sanctions (BAAS) held a peaceful demonstration at the US Embassy calling for the removal of sanctions.
Calvern Chitsunge, co-founder and chairperson of BAAS, said sanctions have been detrimental to the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans, hence the need to join hands with SADC member states to call for their removal.
Analysts say as a result of the sanctions, especially the United States' Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA), Zimbabwe has not fully enjoyed support from international financial institutions.
And in order to push for the removal of the sanctions, BAAS in 2019 set up a permanent camp at the main entrance of the United States Embassy in Harare.
"We have been camped here for 939 days, and we made lots of engagements with the American government through the ambassador of America, and to that effect, we have seen the removal of sanctions on IDBZ (Infrastructure Investment Bank of Zimbabwe), we have seen the removal of sanctions on Agribank," he said.
Linda Masarira, leader of the Labor Economists and Afrikan Democrats (LEAD) political party, said sanctions have been used as a tool of economic warfare on Zimbabwe by the US.
"The decline in our economy started after the land reform program, and these sanctions, especially ZIDERA was actually put into effect soon after the land reform program. It was an action that the United States of America decided to do on Zimbabwe to ensure that they make our economy scream, they make things hard for Zimbabweans and imply that black Zimbabweans, native Zimbabweans cannot do their own farming, or run their own economy," she said.
Masarira said sanctions have been historically employed by the United States as a regime change tool.
"The main agenda was to make sure that people get fed up. They do an uprising to try and topple the sitting government and the U.S. intervenes, where they intervene, they take over, we saw that happening in Libya, and we will not allow the U.S. to continue lying to the people of Zimbabwe that the sanctions are targeted," she said.