The African Union (AU) on Saturday urged the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s regime as he prepares to share power with his opposition rival in a unity government.
The AU’s executive council adopted a resolution ahead of yesterday’s summit calling for “the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe to help ease the humanitarian situation in the country.”
African Union head Jean Ping, when asked about sanctions levied by the UA and EU, said: “I think that everybody today should help Zimbabwe to rebuild its economy, because an agreement has been reached.
Since disputed elections last March, Zimbabwe’s shattered economy has nose-dived further. It has the world’s highest inflation rate — 231 million percent — and is struggling with a cholera epidemic that has claimed some 3,000 lives.
Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai this week acceded to a decision by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc that a unity government be formed according to a strict timeline which would see him sworn in as prime minister on Feb. 11.
The 53-nation AU asked members and partners “to solidly back the implementation of a comprehensive pact” to end the ruinous political and economic stalemate.
Mugabe’s party, which had previously threatened to set up a unity government with or without Tsvangirai, has said it will accept the timetable.
Ping said: “Imagine that you don’t help Zimbabwe, who will be blamed? Everybody is expecting that today, because Tsvangirai is going to lead the economy and everything, that the economy should recover. So if you don’t do that who will be blamed by the population? Today SADC told us they have agreed on a solution, the two parties have agreed on that solution … In politics nothing can be forever. We hope this solution can be a lasting one.”
The 84-year-old Mugabe — in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from the UK in 1980 — has long accused Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party of being a tool of the UK and the US, whose governments are opposed to his regime.
Both countries offered up restrained hope in response to the announcement on Friday of a unity government being installed this month.
“I’ve seen the reports about this agreement, but as you can understand, we are a bit skeptical. These types of things have been announced before,” US State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood said.
“The key is always implementation,” he said.
An equally tempered reaction emerged from London, where British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he looked forward to seeing details of a deal that would hold Zimbabwean lawmakers accountable.
“The new government will be judged on its actions, above all by the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.
EU foreign ministers tightened sanctions on Zimbabwe last Monday, freezing the assets of companies based in British tax havens for the first time and adding 26 more names of people close to the Mugabe regime or their families to a travel-ban list, bringing the number to 203.
The number of companies whose assets in Europe must be frozen was increased sharply from four to 40 and for the first time European-based firms are included.
EU sources said all 18 of the European company names added are based on British territory, including tax havens Jersey, the Isle of Man and the British Virgin Islands.