The European Union (EU) has announced that it will renew its arms embargo against Zimbabwe for another year, as it raises concerns about lack of action against members of the security forces accused of human rights abuses.
Zimbabwe has been under western sanctions for alleged human rights violations since 2002.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe after a military coup in 2017, has been battling to gain acceptance from the international community.
The EU said it was not yet convinced that the southern Africa country was on a reform path to extricate itself from over a decade of economic and political turmoil under former president Robert Mugabe.
“Taking into account the situation in Zimbabwe, including the yet to be investigated alleged role of the armed and security forced in human rights abuses, the (EU) Council agreed to renew its arms embargo and targeted assets freeze against one company, Zimbabwe Defence Industries, for one year until 20 February 2021,” the EU said.
A day after Zimbabwe’s controversial 2018 elections, soldiers opened fire on opposition supporters who were protesting against delays in the announcement of poll results, killing six people.
An international panel led by South Africa’s former president Kgalema Motlanthe, which investigated the killings, faulted the police and the army.
The commission recommended the prosecution of the culprits, but more than a year later no one has been charged for the killings.
In January last year, the army was accused of killing more than 17 opposition supporters and raping several women during protests that erupted following a steep increase in the price of fuel.
President Mnangagwa’s government says sanctions from the West are heavily contributing to Zimbabwe’s economic collapse. He has lobbied the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as the African Union (AU) to campaign for the removal of sanctions.
The EU, however, said the embargo on arms does not affect Zimbabwe’s economy.
“The arms embargoes, as well as the asset freeze against the Zimbabwe Defence Industries, do not affect the Zimbabwean economy, foreign direct investment or trade,” the EU added.
EU countries continue to trade with Zimbabwe and provide humanitarian assistance to the southern African country despite the embargo.
The EU described the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe as acute – more than half the population is facing starvation.
Meanwhile, Mr Mugabe’s widow Grace Mugabe was removed from the sanctions list and is now free to travel to EU countries.
The EU had slapped the Mugabe family with an asset freeze and travel ban.
Mr Mugabe died last year.
Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo said the government remains committed to reforms and wants the sanctions lifted.
“We maintain that these and other sanctions, measures imposed against Zimbabwe, are unjustified and outdated; that they actually hinder our reform trajectory and that all such measures should be removed – especially when government is faced by daunting consequences of natural disaster and devastating drought,” Mr Moyo said.
Besides the EU, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada imposed targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe.