Obama extends sanctions on Robert Mugabe's mob

THE United States has extended by another year its sanctions regime targeting President Robert Mugabe and top officials of his Zanu PF party, citing lack of progress on political reform and continuing human rights abuses.\r\n

The announcement came a few days after Mugabe launched an ambitious campaign to get two million signatures on an “anti-sanctions petition” calling for the unconditional lifting of all measures imposed by Washington and the European Union.

In an administrative order made public this week, United States President Barack Obama said he was concerned the political crisis in Zimbabwe was still unresolved, adding that Zanu PF officials were undermining democratic processes and perpetrating violence.

“… in accordance with section 202((d)) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622((d))), I am continuing for one year the national emergency with respect to the actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions,” Obama said.

“Politically-motivated violence and intimidation, and the undermining of the power-sharing agreement by elements of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party, continue to be of grave concern.”

He added: “For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue this national emergency and to maintain in force the sanctions to respond to this threat.”

Under the administration of former President George W. Bush, Washington imposed a travel and financial embargo on the long-ruling Mugabe and his coterie in 2003 in protest the breakdown of the rule of law and rights breaches.

President Obama said he was willing to “modify the targeted sanctions regime when blocked persons demonstrate a clear commitment to respect the rule of law, democracy, and human rights. “

But Zanu PF parliamentary whip Joram Gumbo immediately accused the United States of duplicity and hypocrisy. He also blamed the MDC for not campaigning vigorously for the sanctions removal.

“We sort of expected America to do what they’ve just done. Sanctions can only be removed at the instruction of the MDC since they’re the ones who invited them,” Gumbo commented.

But addressing an investment conference in Harare Tuesday, MDC-T leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said he had lobbied for the sanctions removal sanctions but insisted his efforts were defeated by Zanu PF supporters who “did not want to let go of the culture of violence”.  

The European Union extended its own sanctions last month, but removed a number of officials from its blacklist.