US ambassador McGee leaves Zimbabwe in July

HARARE – United States ambassador to Zimbabwe and an outspoken critic of President Robert Mugabe’s rule, James McGee, is leaving the embattled southern African nation in July amid reports that he is going into retirement after 28 years in diplomatic service.

McGee confirmed to journalists in Harare during the Easter Holiday that he was leaving the country, but declined to discuss the matter.

Sources at the US embassy in Harare said McGee, who once served as ambassador to Swaziland, Madagascar, and the Comoros, was retiring from diplomatic service.

“He wanted to retire during the (George) Bush administration, but was asked to continue in office,” one of the sources said. “The ambassador has seen the coming in of the new president (Barack Obama) to retire.”

McGee, who was posted to Zimbabwe in 2007, was critical of Mugabe’s style of management and recently said the country’s inclusive government made up of ZANU PF and the two MDC formations was imperfect.

During his posting in the country, he saw the tightening of targeted sanctions.

Last month, McGee said the US would not give Zimbabwe financial aid to jumpstart its comatose economy until the full restoration of the rule of law and upholding of human rights.

He said the US government wanted the inclusive government to craft a new constitution in the next two years leading to free and fair elections.

In a roundtable meeting with journalists during the Easter Holiday, McGee called for the prosecution of perpetrators of political violence during the countdown to the June 27 2008 presidential election run-off.

He said the perpetrators should be brought to book.

According to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC, over 200 of its supporters were killed during the bloody campaign.

"Those behind the March post-election human rights abuses of last year should face trial. They must be brought before the courts of law and tried, to allow for the nation to move forward," McGee said.

McGee said while there had been an improvement on the economic front following the formation of the inclusive government, the US was still worried about the continued abuse of human rights and lack of the rule of law.?

"But other things such as the rule of law, respect for human rights those things are not moving in as nearly a rapid pace to satisfy us," he said. "But again this government has only been operational for six weeks so we want to give them the opportunity, the leg room, the political space to do what is right and show what they can do." – ZimOnline