A United States senator has urged the Obama administration to use its influence in preventing international finance institutions’ premature opening of lines of credit to Zimbabwe until the country shows progress on respecting the rule of law and human rights.
In a letter on Thursday to Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said lines of credit to Zimbabwe should be open only if there is meaningful progress in the country’s democratization process.
Recent reports indicate that the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and African Development Bank may clear Zimbabwe of its $1.9 billion in unpaid debt obligations prematurely, granting the country access to credit without clear evidence of governance and economic reforms.
“While the willingness of a country to meet its debt obligations should normally be embraced, in this case arrears clearance will allow for new lending to the Government of Zimbabwe. Without meaningful progress toward long awaited reforms by the Mugabe regime, new lending could significantly alter internal political dynamics and help entrench the very same individuals responsible for the country’s economic collapse and gross human rights violations.
“This is a moment when Zimbabwe’s political future is highly uncertain but history has shown little prospect for genuine progress and great likelihood of further repression and mis-governance.”
Senator Corker said the Obama administration should use its voice and vote at these international financial institutions as well as its influence with creditors to ensure that any new lending to the Government of Zimbabwe, including lending intended to relieve existing barriers to lending, be preceded by meaningful progress toward clear benchmarks for the restoration of the rule of law in Zimbabwe, including respect for private property, free press, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.
He said there should also be a credible process of accountability for missing revenues from diamonds and a monitored plan for capturing future revenues; and official acknowledgement of past gross human rights abuses and a demonstration that the Government of Zimbabwe is prepared to make an earnest effort to remedy those abuses, such as clear steps to hold accountable those responsible for the massacres of more than twenty thousand people in Matabeleland in the 1980s, and for the disappearance in March, 2015, of human rights activist Itai Dzamara.
“Without progress toward these goals, I fear new lending will not help Zimbabwe but hinder progress toward democratic governance and economic growth. In this instance, premature lending without conditions would likely empower those who have created the country’s political and economic crises in the first place.
Senator Corker noted that current law requires the president to make a number of certifications including the restoration of the rule of law in Zimbabwe; satisfactory election conditions in that country; equitable, legal, and transparent land reform; and the subordination of the security forces to civilian authority as the necessary conditions for a U.S. vote in support of Zimbabwe’s arrears clearance at any international financial institution.
“We urge the Treasury Department to act quickly to raise the lack of clear and meaningful governance and economic reforms with the IMF, World Bank, and African Development Bank, and to encourage creditors to require such reforms before supporting any new lending to the Government of Zimbabwe.”
The United States and European Union imposed restrictive measures on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle following what they termed gross human rights violations and election rigging.