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U.S. Policy on Zimbabwe

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The Truth about United States policy towards Zimbabwe

By Sharon Hudson-Dean
Sharon Hudson-Dean, PAO (Photo: PAS)

Public Affairs Officer, Sharon Hudson-Dean

“Illegal western sanctions” is now one of the most popular clichés in Zimbabwe’s national conversation.  The U.S. Embassy would like to dispel five myths about the United States’ position on Zimbabwe by stating clearly the real U.S. policy toward Zimbabwe.

U.S. sanctions are not blocking Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.

The United States does not maintain sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe or the country of Zimbabwe.  U.S. sanctions target individuals and entities that have undermined democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe.  More specifically, U.S. sanctions target individuals who, among other things, are senior officials of the Government of Zimbabwe, have participated in human rights abuses related to political repression and/or have engaged in activities facilitating public corruption by senior officials of the Government of Zimbabwe.  U.S. sanctions also target entities owned or controlled by the Zimbabwean government or officials of the Zimbabwean government.  Unless a transaction involves a blocked individual or entity, U.S. persons may, and are encouraged to, conduct business in, and trade with, Zimbabwe and its people.

The U.S. Treasury Department updates targeted sanctions related to Zimbabwe by adding individuals or entities to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (“SDN List”) as new individuals or companies emerge, or are identified, who meet the criteria for designation and by removing individuals or entities from the SDN List when they no longer meet the criteria for designation.

The United States welcomes the opportunity to modify the targeted sanctions regime when blocked Zimbabwean officials demonstrate a clear commitment to respect the rule of law, democracy, and human rights.  This includes genuine support for the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which was brokered by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and agreed to by the leaders of Zimbabwe’s transitional government, and preparing for free, fair, and peaceful elections which will reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people.  Targeted sanctions should not be used by Zimbabwe’s leaders as an excuse to abrogate their responsibilities towards their own people under the Global Political Agreement.

The United States is not preventing Zimbabwe’s access to international financial assistance.

The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economy Recovery Act (ZDERA), signed into law in 2001, and provisions contained in subsequent appropriations acts, restrict the ability of the United States to cast its vote in support of new assistance to Zimbabwe from international financial institutions (IFI’s), except for programs that meet basic human needs or promote democracy.  Zimbabwe however was already, and remains, ineligible for multilateral loans before ZDERA due to its arrears to the IFIs.  ZDERA is not an obstacle to Zimbabwe’s economic recovery or its re-engagement with the IFIs.

The United States has no trade embargo against Zimbabwe.

There is no U.S. bilateral trade embargo against Zimbabwe.  Trade levels fluctuate, but in ten of the past twelve years (with the exception of 2007 and 2009, when the global economic crisis affected nearly all markets), the trade balance between Zimbabwe and the United States has favored Zimbabwe, often by a large margin.

The United States has not cut off aid to Zimbabwe.

In fact, the United States provided over $300 million in 2009 and over $200 million in 2010 for humanitarian, food, health, and democracy and governance assistance to Zimbabwe.  In 2011, the United States will continue to provide this level of assistance while also raising its commitment to fight HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe by $10 million to a total of $57.5 million.  

The United States is not trying to impose its own agenda on Zimbabwe and Africa.

As President Obama has said many times, Africa’s future is up to Africans.  The United States supports the Zimbabwean people in their effort to fully realize the promise of democracy, human rights, and economic development.  The United States advocates full implementation of the Global Political Agreement, and the holding of free and fair elections that will reflect the will of the majority of Zimbabweans.  As President Obama has said, “development depends on good governance.  That is the change that can unlock Africa’s potential.  And it is a responsibility that can be met only by Africans.”  Political freedom and stability are in the interest of all nations and all people who wish to enjoy lasting peace and prosperity.  The United States is a partner and a friend in this effort.

Sharon Hudson-Dean is the Public Affairs Officer and Spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Harare. E-mail: hararepas@state.gov  Tel. +263 4 758800.

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