US Officially Lifts Long-standing Sanctions on Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Sanctions Dropped, US Adjusts Foreign Policy Approach

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

The United States has officially lifted the Zimbabwe Sanctions Regulations, initially established in 2003 under the administration of President George W. Bush. This removal marks a significant shift in U.S. foreign policy towards Zimbabwe, indicating potential changes in the diplomatic relationship between the two nations.

The sanctions were first implemented following accusations that certain actions and policies of members of the Zimbabwean government, as well as other individuals, were contributing to the deterioration of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. The U.S. administration at the time, led by President Bush, accused the government under then-President Robert Mugabe of engaging in politically motivated violence and intimidation, which purportedly undermined democratic processes and institutions in Zimbabwe. Additionally, the Mugabe administration was blamed for causing political and economic instability not only within its borders but also across the southern African region. President Bush characterized these actions as “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States,” prompting the declaration of a national emergency to address this perceived threat.

Over the years, these sanctions were renewed periodically. However, recent developments have seen a shift in this longstanding policy. In March 2024, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that repealed the initial 2003 order, leading to the termination of the national emergency related to the sanctions. Following this, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued the final rule that effectively removed the Zimbabwe Sanctions Regulations from the Code of Federal Regulations. This rule was made public for inspection in the Federal Register and was set to officially take effect on April 17, 2024.

Despite the lifting of these broad sanctions, the U.S. continues to actively address issues of corruption and human rights abuses within Zimbabwe under different frameworks. Just last month, OFAC designated 11 individuals, including Zimbabwe’s current President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and three entities involved in corruption or serious human rights abuses under Executive Order 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. This action by OFAC marked President Mnangagwa as the first sitting head of state to be designated under the U.S.’s Global Magnitsky Programme, highlighting ongoing concerns regarding governance and human rights in Zimbabwe.

President Mnangagwa, alongside his wife Auxillia and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, were included in this designation, which also named several other key figures and businessmen linked to the current administration. Additionally, companies such as Sakunda and Fossil Group, which are connected to the designated individuals, were placed on this list, indicating a focused approach by the U.S. to target individuals and entities directly involved in undermining the principles of democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe.

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