Sunday, July 29, 2012

Outgoing US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Criticises Washington

Ray criticises US govt

Saturday, 28 July 2012 22:16
Kuda Bwititi
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Outgoing United States Ambassador Mr Charles Ray has criticised his government for “not doing much” to improve relations with Zimbabwe while conceding that the American sanctions against the Southern African state are hurting ordinary citizens.

Ambassador Ray told The Sunday Mail during his last official Press conference in Harare last week that Washington seemed indifferent towards leveraging on his prime mandate of normalising relations with Harare.

Asked about the kind of support he expected from the US government, he said his successor, Mr Bruce Wharton, would work towards improving key areas.

“It’s a tough question . . . I can never say I received 100 percent support from my government. They could have done more to improve relations with Zimbabwe,” he said.

“Although I cannot speak on the specific areas that I can point out, I think my successor, who has a history of having spent some time in Zimbabwe, will be able to work on those areas that need to be improved.”

Mr Ray also said US state officials have a distorted perception of Zimbabwe. He said he, at some point, seriously considered turning down his appointment owing to the negative briefing he received.

“Before I came to the country, I thought I would be greeted by guns at the airport.

“This is the picture I got during the weekly briefings I received just before I came. The official briefings were inaccurate because people focused on negative issues and negative images were planted in my head.

“Because of this, I thought of not coming to Zimbabwe, at one time. It was only when I arrived here that I realised life can never be one colour.”

The outgoing envoy said the economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) were affecting the general populace.

He told journalists last week that the embargo went beyond companies and individuals. Previously the West and the MDC gave the false impression that the sanctions are targeted.

Ambassador Ray said his country hoped to ease the impact of the debilitating measures by increasing aid to Zimbabwe.

“Obviously, when such measures are imposed, it would be difficult for ordinary people and people that were not intended to be affected (to, in fact, be affected).

“We are aware there are innocent people who have been affected and this is unfortunate.
“When United Nations Human Rights chief Navi Pillay was in the country, she alluded to the fact that where sanctions are imposed, the imposer of the embargo has an obligation to have measures to mitigate the impact of such sanctions.

“We have done our best to mitigate the sanctions by providing a total of US$2 billion in aid.

“I also feel the state, which is suffering from the sanctions, should also take measures to reduce the effect of these measures instead of just complaining,” Ambassador Ray said.

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