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Protestors stage a "illegal" protest

Activists and the main opposition party in Zimbabwe say the country is not ready for the end of U.S. and European sanctions, accusing the government of continued human rights violations. President Emmerson Mnangagwa's sympathizers say lifting sanctions will help country's ailing economy, but economists disagree.

Tatenda Mombeyarara, the leader of the activist group Citizens Manifesto, opposes planned protests by regional leaders to demand the end of Western sanctions imposed on former President Robert Mugabe and his allies in 2002 for election rigging and human rights abuses.

Mombeyarara — speaking while recovering in a private hospital after being abducted by about 10 armed men who he suspects were members of the security forces — said the recent crackdowns by security forces on protesters and a spate of abductions showed that Zimbabwe's rights record hasn't improved.

'Much worse situation'

“So it would be wrong for any body or institution to have sanctions removed on the falsehoods that the human rights situation in Zimbabwe has improved,” he said. “The reality is that they have worsened. We are in a far, far much worse situation. So if we got sanctions because of human rights abuses, what should actually be happening is tightening those sanctions."

Racheal Kamangira, a member of a pro-government group called Broad Coalition Against Sanctions, has the opposite view.
Since February, Kamangira and members of her group have been camped outside the U.S. Embassy in Harare, demanding the sanctions be lifted.

Members of a pro-Zimbabwe government group called Broad Coalition Against Sanctions have been camped outside the U.S. Embassy in Harare, demanding the sanctions be lifted, Aug. 20, 2019. They say sanctions hurt ordinary citizens. (C. Mavhunga/VOA)

"Those targeted ones, if they get sick, they go to other countries to get medication,” she said. “When we get sick, we have no medication. They were targeting our former president. Right now, he is no longer ruling this country. But the ones suffering are ordinary Zimbabweans."

The 43-year old widow said that once the sanctions are lifted, the economy will improve and she will be able to find a job and send her three children to school.

Spending, corruption

But Daniel Ndlela, a former economics professor at the University of Zimbabwe, said Harare first has to cut expenditures and deal with corruption before there can be any economic improvement.

Sanctions, he said, have little to do with Zimbabwe's economic problems.

"The idea [is] that if they are lifted, we will immediately have loans coming through,” he said. “But that won't happen until we service the debts owed to the IFIs — international finance institutions. The money we owe all around is not due to sanctions."

Zimbabwe has been mostly cut off from international loans and foreign investment since the early 2000s because of Mugabe's abuses and policies seen as unfavorable to outside companies.

In this Nov. 20, 2013 photo, Cecil the Lion rests in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. The well-known lion was killed in Hwange during what authorities said was an illegal hunt.

A group of activists is trying to persuade an international conservation conference to ban trophy hunting, which outrages some animal lovers but has long been tolerated by some environmentalists as a way of protecting wildlife.

More than 50 members of the European Parliament and 50 environmental groups, led by the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, signed a petition to the triannual CITES conference taking place this week in Geneva.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international treaty granting degrees of protection to over 35,000 species.

Agreements passed at the conference are legally binding to 183 signatory states, and although they do not supersede national law, they set standards for global trade and tourism.

A trophy hunting ban is not currently on the agenda as resolutions need to be submitted six months ahead. The meeting started Saturday and continues through Aug. 28, with the main decisions usually finalized over the last two days.

A CITES spokesman declined to comment on the letter and said CITES decisions are taken by governments, not the secretariat.

CITES adopted a resolution at its 2016 conference recognizing the compatibility between well-managed trophy hunting and species conservation.

Trophy hunting, while popular with a small group of wealthy big-game hunters, has come under the spotlight in recent years following several high profile cases. The death of a lion called Cecil, shot by an American dentist in Zimbabwe in 2015, sparked global outrage.

The World Wildlife Fund, which is not a signatory to the anti-trophy hunting petition, supports a limited amount of hunting provided it helps local communities prioritize wildlife conservation over alternatives such as cattle raising and habitat conversion for farming.

Eduardo Goncalves, President of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, rejects this argument.

"Trophy hunting is immoral and cruel," he said, adding that it often goes hand in hand with poaching. He added that trophy hunting brings in pennies compared to ecotourism.

International Union for Conservation of Nature spokeswoman Rosie Cooney, who is attending the CITES conference, said ecotourism and trophy hunting are not mutually exclusive and both should be used to protect wildlife.

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