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End Zimbabwe sanctions, say southern African leaders

By on September 9, 2009

Southern African heads of state called on the international community to end sanctions on Zimbabwe, ending a regional summit meeting on Tuesday with a statement many had expected.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and long-time foe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai formed a power-sharing government in February as part of a deal backed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to end a political crisis that followed disputed polls last year.

But the accord is beset with problems.

“The summit noted the progress made in the implementation of the global political agreement and called on the international community to remove all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe,” the SADC said in its final communique after a meeting in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Considering the positive evolution of the situation, considering the progress that has been made, we believe it is now high time that the sanctions are lifted,” Congolese President Joseph Kabila said.

Kabila, who took over as chairman of SADC during the summit, said if sanctions were not lifted, they would become an impediment to putting the political agreement into practice.

South African President Jacob Zuma had kicked off the meeting on Monday by asking Zimbabwe’s leaders to end a row over a power-sharing pact that is holding up vital foreign aid to its battered economy.

Earlier, Congo said it was confident the meeting would culminate in a call for an end to the sanctions, which include travel bans and asset freezes against Mugabe and his inner circle.

Coming into the two-day summit Tsvangirai had called upon regional leaders to put pressure on Mugabe to fully implement the power-sharing agreement.

While he accuses the Zimbabwean president of refusing to reverse a series of key political appointments, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, in turn, accuses the prime minister of not doing enough to push western governments to lift sanctions.

On Monday, Tsvangirai’s spokesman announced that SADC leaders were in favour of calling an extraordinary summit of the regional body to deal with key sticking points that have slowed implementation of the deal.

However, the regional heads of state on Tuesday backed away from the possibility of special talks and placed no conditions on Mugabe in exchange for the call to remove sanctions.

“There was no reason for us to attach conditions to the calling of the countries that have applied sanctions to lift sanctions,” Zuma, SADC’s outgoing chairman told journalists.

A recovery in Zimbabwe’s battered economy is important for South Africa because millions of Zimbabweans have been driven to seek work in their much wealthier neighbour.

Mugabe’s supporters applauded SADC’s decision earlier in the day, even before the measure was officially announced.

“SADC itself has a right to say to the Americans and Europeans that Zimbabwe is a central member of our organisation,” George Charamba, Mugabe’s press secretary told Reuters.

“By continuing to inflict it with those sanctions that are unjustified and illegal anyway, you are hurting SADC. Please, do us a favour, remove them,” he said.

Zimbabwe says it needs $10 billion in foreign reconstruction aid, but Western nations are reluctant to release aid without political and economic reform.


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