United States Democratic Senator Chris Coons says time is running out for Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to conduct free, fair and credible elections this year.
In an interview with Washington Correspondent Daniel Ryntjes of the CGTN Africa, Coons said President Mnangagwa has not made significant moves in ensuring that the country will address previous electoral challenges, which will result in the lifting of sanctions imposed on former President Robert Mugabe and some top ruling party officials.
Coons, who recently visited Zimbabwe with a delegation comprising senators from the Republican and Democratic parties, said, “… President Mnangagwa, both in our personal meeting, which was positive and terrific and very long, and in public statements, both in the press conference afterwards and in an editorial published in the New York Times has committed himself to democracy, to free and fair elections, to protecting human rights, towards returning to a rules-based, open economy.
“If he takes those steps, sanctions relief should be forthcoming from the United States and Senator Flake and I would take the action necessary in the American Congress to accomplish that. But, frankly, after what was a very encouraging meeting a few weeks ago, we’ve seen no concrete steps in response. The amount of time left before the elections is shrinking, so the importance of taking prompt, concrete steps to demonstrate the president’s commitment to democracy is becoming more and more important.”
Asked if his confidence on Mnangagwa’s commitments are declining, Coons said, “Well, there is less and less time for the president to take concrete action. It’s been wonderful hearing his encouraging private and public comments about welcoming international observers, about publishing the list of those who are enrolled for the vote, of identifying the list of places where polling will take place, providing access to state media for opposition candidates, a whole variety of things that are a basic indicators of free and fair elections. But no steps have been taken yet, at least that I’m aware off.”
He said Mnangagwa should take immediate action to ensure that he sticks to his promises.
“There’ve been some encouraging initial meetings with opposition parties but no concrete steps. So whether you look at EU Standards, AU Standards, SADC Standards, there are standards for free and fair elections, that don’t vary significantly. I just urge President Mnangagwa and his administration to take concrete steps, soon.”
On prospects of lifting sanctions imposed on Zanu PF officials, Coons said, “Relieving sanctions would provide significant economic lift for Zimbabwe, both because it would then encourage foreign direct investment, re-establishment if robust economic ties, and it would bring engagement with the Western world for Zimbabwe which has been an increasingly isolated challenged and impoverished country, over the decades of former President Mugabe’s rule.”
He noted that the United States as well as the United Kingdom and a number of other countries have long had sanctions in place against Zimbabwe.
“Those sanctions are complex and have several different sources, but Senator Flake and I have introduced a Bill, and recently revised that Bill, that would provide some sanctions relief for Zimbabwe. It’s not our role to dictate exactly what the Zimbabwean people will do through their elected leadership, but this sets up a couple of steps that they should take.”
Responding to a question on America’s readiness to provide held in reviving Zimbabwe’s economy, the Democratic Senator said, “I think Zimbabwe is widely recognized as a country with terrific potential. It’s got a wonderful human resources in terms of very well educated citizenry, it’s got a legacy of infrastructure and development and agricultural potential, it’s got great natural resources as well, and I think they would find interested partners from all around the world that would gladly come and invest in their development and re-engagement with the region.
“But as long as there are significant sanctions in place by western countries on Zimbabwe, that raises both direct and indirect challenges for them …”
The United States and other nations imposed targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his colleagues due to alleged human rights abuses and electoral fraud.