US Ends Zimbabwe Sanctions After 21 Years

President Biden lifts economic and travel restrictions on Zimbabwean officials and entities

by Victor Adetimilehin

The United States has announced the termination of its sanctions program on Zimbabwe, ending more than two decades of economic and diplomatic pressure on the southern African nation.

President Joseph Biden signed an executive order on Monday, saying that the national emergency declared in 2003 over Zimbabwe’s human rights and democratic situation was no longer needed.

The move signals a thaw in the relations between Washington and Harare, which have been strained since the controversial land reforms and political violence that marked the rule of former president Robert Mugabe.

New Sanctions Imposed on Zimbabwean Officials and Entities 

However, Biden also imposed new sanctions on 14 individuals and entities in Zimbabwe, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife Auxillia, for their alleged involvement in corruption and human rights abuses.

The new sanctions were issued under the Global Magnitsky Act, which targets perpetrators of serious human rights violations and corruption around the world.

Biden said he was still concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe, especially the violence and repression against political opponents and the misuse of public authority.

He urged the government of Zimbabwe to undertake key reforms to improve its record on human rights, good governance, and anti-corruption.

The US sanctions program on Zimbabwe was initiated in 2003 by former president George W. Bush, who accused Mugabe and his allies of undermining Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions.

The sanctions included asset freezes and travel bans on dozens of Zimbabwean officials and entities, as well as restrictions on trade, investment, and aid.

US-Zimbabwe Relations: Challenges and Opportunities

The sanctions were widely criticized by Zimbabwe and its regional allies, who blamed them for the country’s economic woes and accused the US of interfering in its internal affairs.

Zimbabwe has repeatedly called for the lifting of the sanctions, saying they were hurting ordinary people and hampering its development.

The US has maintained that the sanctions were targeted at individuals and entities responsible for the country’s problems and that the removal of the sanctions would depend on the implementation of political and economic reforms.

The termination of the US sanctions program on Zimbabwe comes as the country faces multiple challenges, including a severe drought, a currency crisis, and a health system collapse. The Covid-19 pandemic has also worsened the situation, with more than 1.2 million cases and over 32,000 deaths reported as of March 2024.

The US has pledged to support Zimbabwe’s efforts to combat the pandemic, as well as to promote democracy, human rights, and economic recovery. The US embassy in Harare said the decision to end the sanctions program was “an opportunity for a new chapter in our bilateral relationship”.

It also expressed hope that the new sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act would “encourage accountability and deter future abuses”. The Zimbabwean government has not yet responded to the US announcement, but some analysts have welcomed it as a positive step.

They said it could open the door for more dialogue and cooperation between the two countries, as well as improve Zimbabwe’s image and prospects in the international community.

They also urged the Zimbabwean authorities to seize the opportunity and address the concerns raised by the US and other partners, such as the European Union, which also maintains some sanctions on Zimbabwe.

Source: New Zimbabwe


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