EU restrictions remain for Zimbabwe until human rights improve

The gloves are off and the war of words is definitely back on by Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF officials toward the EU following the weekend’s visit to the country by European officials and their refusal to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Writing in the Zimbabwe Herald, ZANU-PF official Patrick Chinamasa has charged the EU with seeking to undermine the inclusive government and for falling ‘hook line and sinker’ for MDC lines.  

Such language is a marked contrast to President Robert Mugabe’s welcome to the officials with “open arms” which he declared two days ago – but chimes well with the President’s remarks last week accusing the EU of “poking their nose into [Zimbabwe’s] affairs”’.

As Zimbabwe Online reports, the restrictions will remain in place until there is an improvement in human rights and the rule of law is fully observed.

Amnesty’s recent high-level mission to the country certainly highlighted that Zimbabwe is far from being at the point of fully respecting human rights.

While in Harare, Amnesty’s Secretary-General Irene Khan declared that “words were not followed by effective action”, as the delegation found cases of persistent and serious human rights violations, no reform measures for the country’s police, army or other security forces and a clear lack of commitment from some parts of the government.  Ms Khan said that there remained “real obstacles that need to be confronted by the top leadership of Zimbabwe”.

During that visit, in sharp irony the Times reported that a case of police brutality against a group of peaceful activists took place just outside the building from where Amnesty was holding its Harare press conference.

The exchange of accusations and attacks may well persist between Zimbabwe and other states who choose to refuse to relax restrictions, but I don’t think that’s where the Zimbabwe government’s attention should lie.  Perhaps instead of trying to come up with a spicy soundbite to attack other countries, they should be throwing all their energy and efforts into restoring and improving the education, health and social services for Zimbabweans and into ensuring that all authorities – particularly the public security sector – uphold and protect the basic human rights of all Zimbabwe’s citizens.

Perhaps then there may be no need for verbal feuding.

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