Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Remove Sanctions on Zimbabwe

Remove sanctions on Zim

THIS is the second and final part of OBI EGBUNA’S analysis of the May 7 2009, US sub-committee hearing on Africa and Global Health titled "Zimbabwe: Opportunities for a New Way Forward". The first part appeared in yesterday’s issue of The Herald.

Because this hearing was convened in the halls of the US Congress, and the platform featured think-tanks and public policy groups exclusively, it would be a romantic notion to expect plans concerning military action against Zimbabwe to be discussed in any detail.

We must remember before former British Prime Minister Tony Blair left office it was revealed he held informal talks with Lord Guthrie concerning an invasion of Zimbabwe.

Last summer current British Prime Minister Gordon Brown threatened to deploy his military to evacuate their citizens from Zimbabwe.

These aggressive overtures can also be linked to Archbishop Desmond Tutu — who was honoured by the National Democratic Institute last year — shocking the African world by saying military action against Zimbabwe should not be ruled out.

His call also helps explain why the Bush administration appointed a Vietnam veteran to be their diplomatic face in Zimbabwe.

Because Mukoko’s arrest is in connection to alleged planning of military activities in a Botswana where President Khama openly said his space could be used for military manouevres against Zimbabwe, it is important to control defence and security. Payne commented that there are those who want to see this government fail.

This was obvious when Western media were ready to blame President Mugabe and Zanu-PF for the death of PM Tsvangirai’s wife until it was discovered that the vehicle which struck her car was Usaid property.On March 22 2009, the Washington Post’s Parade magazine listed President Mugabe as the world’s worst dictator.

Explaining his choice, writer David Wallechinsky — the biological son of Hollywood screenwriter Irving Wallace -claimed since the inclusive Government was established, the President broke the terms and installed his people at the head of every Ministry.

Perhaps Minister Biti, when in Washington, didn’t feel it necessary to announce he had left MDC-T and was now a full member of Zanu-PF.

What was more of a concern than Wallechinsky’s lies was the article on the next page titled "We must stop the rape and terror" by Jocelyn Craugh Zuckerman.

She said her purpose in writing this piece was to expose a hideous element of Zanu-PF’s campaign of terror and violence that saw the brutal rape of hundreds — perhaps thousands of opposition women and girls.

The article revealed there is a non profit group called Aids Free World whose co-founder Paula Donovan is actively helping Zimbabwean women collect testimonies from victims for the purpose of showing President Mugabe and Zanu-PF are responsible ‘‘for these atrocities.’’

Since one of the main themes of the hearing was democracy, it would have been a perfect opportunity for Payne and his witnesses to explain why they and their Commander-in-Chief hold a minority world opinion that sanctions against Zimbabwe should remain in place.

In his testimony Joy Mabenge — the only Zimbabwean to appear on the platform - stated it is his considered opinion that the Obama administration should shift policy from "smart sanctions" towards co-operation and "smart assistance".

Mabenge’s "smart assistance" was a form of rewarding, through targeted assistance, key drivers of democratic reforms.

He appealed to Payne to ensure that the broader thrust of the sanctions must remain in place.

If it wasn't rehearsed to have the one Zimbabwean witness call for the maintenance of sanctions, this certainly was ammunition that fell into Payne’s lap.

Nicole Lee of Trans Africa Forum closed by saying they had been swayed by the civil society and voices from the region. Lee’s statement is rather contradictory, especially since the most important voice on the question of Zimbabwe in the region, is none other than Sadc.

Neither Payne nor any of the witnesses in their testimonies mentioned having any face-to-face engagement with Sadc or the AU concerning Zimbabwe.Payne has an above average understanding of the UN’s role in the Zimbabwe issue since Bush appointed him Congressional delegate to the body on two separate occasions.

Payne knows that former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan after meeting with President Mugabe in Banjul, Gambia, called Zimbabwe an unresolved bilateral dispute between a sovereign nation and its former colonial master, and supported the recommendation for former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa to mediate talks between President Mugabe and Tony Blair.

The fact that the US attempted to block Zimbabwe’s chairing of the UN Committee for Sustainable Development is on record as is their attempt to have the UN impose sanctions on Zimbabwe that would complement ZDERA.

The hearing also ignored two other UN-related incidents involving the US,which deserved mention.

The US Ambassador to the Food and Agriculture Organisation Tony Hall attempted on two occasions to prevent President Mugabe from addressing the body.

This seemed to be in uniform with Brown’s feeble effort to boycott the Portugal EU-Africa summit a year and a half ago.

What was most tragic about this hearing is Payne stated because of his background as a history teacher, he is a true believer in the importance of placing things in proper historical context, yet he failed to provide any history of how he individually or the Congressional Black Caucus collectively campaigned to get the US government to honor the promises they made to President Mugabe 30 years ago at Lancaster House.

The Congressman said the targeted sanctions against individuals will be maintained though the US must "seriously consider" removing some sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and provide assistance.

While Payne also stated he has desperately tried to engage the government in a constructive dialogue to address these concerns, he has yet to accept a formal request for an interview with the US Correspondent to The Herald.

The chair of the CBC Congresswoman Barbara Lee received a similar request and all that has been said is that her office will try to fit it in her schedule.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent decision to lift the travel warning on Zimbabwe was inevitable because the claims that justified the alert were completely baseless.

This was an attempt to correct a strategy that failed in Cuba after US citizens defied their government and visited the island to see for themselves what life there was really like.

Payne, in his historical overview, ignored to mention how the inclusive Government is the third major political unity pact in Zimbabwe’s young history.

How does this tally with the claims that Zimbabwe poses an unusual threat to US foreign policy and interests in the region?

It is hard to discredit a Head of State who always forms unity pacts in order for his country to go forward.

Payne and his clouded historical memory also ignored the 1980 policy of reconciliation,where President Mugabe pardoned Ian Smith and the Rhodesians for slaughtering his people.

This was the blueprint for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We can only hope that Payne, who is considered by many in Washington a pearl of wisdom on African affairs, is not bitter that Zimbabwe’s political leadership and Sadc resolved their own affairs and made history without any genuine help from him or his CBC colleagues. Because history continues to teach several lessons to young and old alike.

The CBC and President Obama should learn a basic lesson in both politics and geography: those who are physically and politically closest to Zimbabwe do not need the US dollar or British pound to defend the country’s sovereignty.

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