United States President Joe Biden has extended targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe, citing alleged human rights violations and a violent crackdown on the opposition.
President Biden, in a statement on Thursday, said Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa had not fulfilled his promises to introduce political reforms after replacing the late ruler Robert Mugabe in a military coup nearly six years ago.
“President Emmerson Mnangagwa has not made the necessary political and economic reforms that would warrant terminating the existing targeted sanctions programme,” President Biden said.
“Throughout the last year, government security services routinely intimidated and violently repressed citizens, including members of opposition political parties, union members and journalists.
“The absence of progress on the most fundamental reforms needed to ensure the rule of law, democratic governance and the protection of human rights leaves Zimbabweans vulnerable to ongoing repression and presents a continuing threat to peace and security in the region.”
The sanctions that were first imposed in 2003 include an asset freeze and travel bans on top government officials, businesspeople accused of funding the ruling Zanu PF party and top security chiefs.
They are also targeted at state-owned companies that the US accuses of corruption and organs responsible for human rights violations.
President Biden said the situation in Zimbabwe had not improved to warrant a review of the sanctions.
“The actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions and continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States,” he added.
“Therefore, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergence Executive Order 13288, as amended, with respect to Zimbabwe and to maintain in force the sanctions to respond to this threat.”
As of February 2020, the US sanctions on Zimbabwe affect 86 individuals and 56 entities, mostly farms and state-owned companies.
President Mnangagwa has been campaigning internationally for the removal of the sanctions imposed by Western countries, arguing that they hurt ordinary Zimbabweans. The European Union (EU) a fortnight ago renewed its embargo against Zimbabwe, citing lack of respect for human rights and delayed reforms.
Zimbabwe’s former coloniser, the United Kingdom, also introduced its own set of sanctions against the southern African country after pulling out of the EU last year. The UK sanctions target security chiefs accused of human rights violations with assets freezes and travel bans.