The United States has extended its sanctions against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle at a time the European Union (EU) is mending relations with the southern African country.
EU and the United States imposed an asset freeze and travel ban on top Zimbabwean government officials, security chiefs and State-owned companies after President Mugabe won a controversial election in 2002.
However, the EU has been gradually easing the embargo since 2009 when the veteran ruler formed an inclusive government which collapsed in 2013.
This year the EU resumed direct aid to the government of Zimbabwe after noting progress in reforms that included a new Constitution.
But United States President Barack Obama said Washington was extending the sanctions because President Mugabe and his associates continued to “undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes.”
“The threat constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic process or institutions has not been resolved,” President Obama said in a statement.
“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.”
Western countries accuse President Mugabe of human rights violations and alleged electoral theft.
Zimbabwe has held disputed elections since 2000 when a strong opposition emerged against the 91 year-old leader who has been in power since 1980 when the country got its independence from Britain.
President Mugabe blames the sanctions for Zimbabwe’s economic collapse and claims that they were unjustified.
A senior government official said the renewal of the United States sanctions had no justification.
“This is arrogance of the highest order,” said Christopher Mutsvangwa, who is Minister for War Veterans.
“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.”