The United States government Friday said it is prepared to reduce or even drop sanctions and engage Zimbabwe more fully if the referendum and elections this year are free, fair, and unmarked by violence.
Speaking Friday in Harare, two senior US officials, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr. Reuben Brigety, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Democracy, Karen Hanrahan, said the crackdown on civil society is a worrying sign that elections later this year may not be free and fair.
Dr. Brigety and Hanrahan have been in Harare this week meeting with Zimbabwe government officials, political parties, and civil society groups.
The two officials said a free and fair election would be a sign that the US revisit its sanctions policy and restore its full engagement with Zimbabwe’s government.
However, they warned, continued intimidation and arrests by police are a worrying trend.
Hanrahan said some elements in the Zimbabwe Republic Police continue to demonstrate a clear partisan bias in their arrests, detentions and investigations, focusing their efforts largely on those whose political orientation does not align with Zanu-PF's.
She noted that soldiers have been deployed to rural areas to drum up support for Zanu-PF.
Since December, the police have raided offices and arrested a number of civil society activists, accusing them of engaging in election-related activities they say are illegal.
Hanrahan called on Zimbabwean leaders to “reverse the trends and allow people to exercise their rights to self-determination and freedom from fear.”
She echoed the statement that if Zimbabwe adheres to commitments it made with its Southern African Development Community neighbors, the US is prepared to improve the bilateral relationship.
Dr. Brigety said 2013 has the potential to be a landmark political year in Zimbabwe’s history,
However, Dr. Brigety called Zanu-PF threats not to invite election observers from the US and other western countries that imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe as “unfortunate” and “unproductive”.