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Botswana Supports Call For West To Lift Sanctions Against Harare In Sign Of Thawing Relations

Botswana’s statement on sanctions was part of a communique issued Tuesday after a bilateral meeting on the weekend in Victoria Falls – the meeting in two years of the Zimbabwe-Botswana Permanent Joint Commission.

Signaling a thaw in relations between Harare and Gaborone, Botswana has called for the West to lift sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle, saying travel and financial restrictions are impeding efforts by the inclusive government to address issues affecting the people of Zimbabwe.

Botswana’s statement on sanctions emerged within a joint communiqué issued Tuesday following a bilateral meeting on the weekend in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe - the first meeting in two years of the Zimbabwe-Botswana Permanent Joint Commission.

Botswana President Ian Khama has been one of Mr. Mugabe’s most outspoken regional critics. The country last month announced it was withdrawing two attachés from Harare and asking Harare call home corresponding envoys - this over the detention of Botswanan game wardens who had crossed the border chasing a pride of lions that had been preying on livestock.

The communiqué said sanctions were "constraining and impeding the efforts of the (Zimbabwean) government to effectively tackle the economic, political and social difficulties affecting the people of Zimbabwe."

The U.S. government on Tuesday followed the European Union in renewing targeted sanctions aimed at Mr. Mugabe and his inner circle in 2003 in response to alleged human rights abuses and ballot-rigging.

Co-Home Affairs Minister Giles Mutsekwa, present at the commission meeting, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira he hopes it ushers in better relations between the countries. He said the commission meeting was attended by ministers and senior security officials of the two countries who agreed to improve bilateral relations and step up economic cooperation.

But political analyst John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe commented that the two countries have a long way to go to normalize relations.