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U.S. Ambassador-Designate to Zimbabwe Says to Push Democratic Agenda

The U.S. Ambassador-designate to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton, says if confirmed by Congress, he will work to enable Zimbabwe become a just, prosperous and democratic state that meets the needs of its people, contributes to development in the region, and plays an important role in world affairs.

Addressing the U.S. Senate committee on foreign relations last week, Wharton said he remained optimistic about Zimbabwe’s future, adding his country stands ready to “alter the current restrictions on our relationship with Zimbabwe and to forge stronger economic and political ties.”

Wharton, who's not new to Zimbabwe after serving as the U.S. Public Affairs Officer in Harare from 1999 to 2003, will replace outgoing Ambassador Charles Ray, if confirmed.

The full implementation of the Global Political Agreement that saw the formation of the unity government, he said, progress on the Southern African Development Community’s road map toward elections, and well-managed and credible elections would trigger the U.S. "to open a much more dynamic relationship" with what he says is one of Africa's most important countries.

Wharton said America’s policy on Zimbabwe was not about regime change, adding the U.S. only supports principles, not parties or people.

"However, when the right to self-determination is denied, as it has been in Zimbabwe through restrictions on citizen rights, through political violence, and fraudulent and mismanaged elections, the United States cannot stand idly by," he said.

"We have taken principled steps to demonstrate our concern about the actions of those responsible for, and those who profit from, miscarriages of the promise Zimbabwe offered at independence.

"We will always stand up for the rights of Zimbabweans to speak, write, read, meet, organize, and fully participate in their nation’s political processes.

"We will not always agree with the government of Zimbabwe, but we will always attempt to maintain a respectful and open dialogue."

Wharton, currently deputy assistant secretary in the State Department bureau of African Affairs, said America remained open and willing to work with the government to support free and fair elections.

Commenting, democracy manager Joy Mabenge of the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe said Wharton is coming back to Zimbabwe at a crucial time where things could get better or get worse as the country heads to possible polls next year.

"The politics that the Ambassador is going to come into is fundamentally different from the politics Ambassador Charles Ray and Christopher Dell were in," said Mabenge. "The politics when everyone else is expecting Zimbabwe to at least get through a transition that might take the country to a sustainable democracy."

"His politics will have to do with engagement on the issues of re-engagement, but his uphill task is to deal with issues that are likely to happen within the transitional politics."