A United Nations special envoy has called on the United States and other Western countries to lift their sanctions on Zimbabwe as the restrictive measures are making ordinary people suffer.
Alena Douhan, the UN special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, made the call after her 10-day fact-finding mission in Zimbabwe.
“The US and other states should lift their sanctions on targeted individuals and entities and end over-compliance,” Professor Douhan from Belarus told journalists in Harare.
“The time is ripe for sanctioning States and key national stakeholders to engage in a meaningful structured dialogue on political reform, human rights and the rule of law, and abandon rhetoric on sanctions as an advocacy tool.”
The US first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in March 2003 and later widened them to include about 250 individuals linked to late ruler Robert Mugabe for allegedly undermining democracy.
US sanctions against Zimbabwe also prohibit Americans from engaging in any transactions or dealings with people or government-linked institutions on the list that is reviewed annually.
On the other hand, the European Union (EU) in 2002 imposed a travel ban on Mr Mugabe and dozens of other officials following a disputed presidential election in the Southern African country.
Only the long-time ruler’s widow Grace Mugabe and the state-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries remain on the EU sanctions list.
Prof Douhan said the restrictions and “over-compliance with sanctions in their complexity had exacerbated pre-existing social and economic challenges with devastating consequences for the people of Zimbabwe, especially those living in poverty, women, children, elderly, people with disabilities as well as the marginalised and other vulnerable groups.”
“Over the last 20 years, sanctions and various forms of over-compliance with sanctions have had insidious ripple effects on the economy of Zimbabwe and on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, including access to health, food, safe drinking water and sanitation, education and employment,” Prof Douhan added.
The US and other Western countries insist that their sanctions do not have an effect on Zimbabwe’s economy, which they say is weighed down by corruption and mismanagement.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has been aggressively lobbying for the removal of the embargo, but Western countries are insisting on political and economic reforms before they can act.
Jim Risch, a member of the US Senate foreign relations committee, said Washington was not moved by the ‘rhetoric’ on the Zimbabwe sanctions.
“Another year, another hollow anti-sanctions campaign from the government of Zimbabwe, full of rhetoric instead of change,” tweeted Senator Risch in response to a speech by President Mnangagwa to mark the country’s ‘Anti-Sanctions Day’ on October 25.
“The US is consistent and clear about the path to better relations.
“Stop the corruption. Stop the human rights abuses. Pursue real political and economic reform,” he added.