Visiting members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee say Zimbabwe’s government must ensure free and fair elections if Washington is to lift sanctions.
Jeff Flake and Chris Coons, both members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters Saturday in Harare they are happy with how Zimbabwe is progressing since the forced retirement of Robert Mugabe as the country’s president last November.
Flake urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to ensure Zimbabwe hold credible elections so the West can lift sanctions imposed on some members of the ruling Zanu PF party in 2002 after accusations of election rigging and human rights abuses.
“Nothing will please us more than to be able to play a role in the legislative branch and also to recommend to the president that these sanctions are all to be lifted, and the U.S. and Zimbabwe can have not just full diplomatic relations as we do now for commercial ties and to have expanded trade and to remove individuals from that sanctions list, but that depends as we all know on what happens in the upcoming months,” said Flake.
That was a reference to Zimbabwe’s elections, expected in July or August of this year. Senator Coons was asked what the U. S. and the West expect from the polls.
“We believe there are well known international standards adopted by the African Union, by SADC [Southern African Development Community], by EU [European Union], by others that show what steps are that go from a declaration that we intend to have a free and fair election, to having that election, and steps that follow after an election to re-establishing the rule of law, to re-establishing a sound economic system that is sound, to re-establishing human rights and respect for others. It is not our place to dictate a particular path or steps,” Coons said.
Last month, Senators Flake, a Republican, and Coons, a member of the Democratic Party, introduced a bill to reset relations, including laying out steps Zimbabwe’s new government needs to takein order to have U.S. sanctions lifted.
This story was written by VOA’s Sebastian Mhofu.