EU renews sanctions on Zimbabwe, Mugabe

BRUSSELS – The European Union renewed for another year its sanctions against Zimbabwe, including a travel ban and asset freeze on President Robert Mugabe and his wife, according to a notice on Friday in the EU’s Official Journal.

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Zimbabwe's President and Chairperson of African Union (AU) Robert Mugabe addresses a news conference during the closing ceremony of the 24th Ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 31, 2015. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

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“The restrictive measures should be renewed until Feb. 20, 2016,” the notice read. “The application of the travel ban and asset freeze should be maintained for two persons.”

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Since imposing sanctions in 2002 over electoral fraud and human rights abuses, the EU has eased measures to encourage political reform in Zimbabwe, although it has kept its ban on Mugabe and his wife Grace, as well as an arms embargo.

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This week it gave Zimbabwe 234 million euros (173.62 million pounds) in aid, its first since sanctions were imposed. And earlier this month, EU officials said that the 90-year-old president might be allowed in on an exceptional basis during his year-long chairmanship of the African Union, if traveling on AU business.

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The Official Journal, however, made clear EU governments are not yet convinced that Mugabe had changed enough to merit a final lifting of restrictions. Representatives of the 28 member states had “carried out a review” of sanctions “taking into account political developments in Zimbabwe”, the notice read.

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And they would remain in force.

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Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain in 1980 and has frequently clashed with the West. EU states were divided in their response when Mugabe won a fifth term in a 2013 election that was endorsed as free by African observers but denounced as fraudulent by the opposition.

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The EU invited Mugabe to attend an EU-Africa summit in Brussels last April, but he stayed away because his wife was not invited. Following Mugabe’s protest, South African President Jacob Zuma also decided to stay at home.

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Zanu PF loyalist Alexander Rusero says the EU’s stance is unacceptable and is a deep contempt of the people of Zimbabwe, the Southern Africa Development Community and the African Union.

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“This is contempt on Zimbabwean people who recently voted President Mugabe in 2013. It is contempt on SADC and the AU who have entrusted him with chairmanship,” said Rusero.

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Party deputy spokesman Psychology Maziwisa says the EU is displaying arrogance and its actions are surprising as they appear to be eroding the spirit of re-engagement.

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“This is a display of arrogance ad total disregard of the re-engagement efforts that have been witnessed,” Maziwisa said.

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Only a few days ago, there were cheers when Europe unveiled development aid to the tune of US$270 million although government still held reservations on why the President remains under sanctions.- Plus Reuters