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Botswana’s Khama softens harsh tone on Zimbabwe

By on October 5, 2010

Botswana President Ian Khama, one of Africa’s most outspoken leaders critical of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, called for a lifting of sanctions to help prod the country to greater openness.

The United States and European Union imposed sanctions on state firms in Zimbabwe and travel restrictions on Mugabe and dozens of his associates nearly 10 years ago after a violent re-election campaign and at the start of often violent commercial farm seizures.

“We appeal to those who have placed sanctions to remove them in order to give motivation,” Khama told reporters during a visit to South Africa.

“We also have concerns but let’s remove them to demonstrate good faith and see where we go from there,” Khama told journalists in Pretoria, the SAPA news agency reported. A South African presidential spokesman verified the comments.

Khama said last year the blame for political paralysis in neighbouring Zimbabwe lay with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and raised hackles in Harare by saying new elections were the only way to break the stalemate threatening Zimbabwe’s power-sharing agreement.

South Africa has called for removal of the sanctions, hoping that would help the economy of its impoverished neighbour and slow the stream of immigrants crossing into South Africa.

Khama’s comments will likely strengthen the hand of Southern African leaders as they appeal for an end to the economic measures that have shaken Zimbabwe but not ended Mugabe’s rule.

The United States and EU have said human rights violations continue in Zimbabwe and the sanctions will remain in place.

Mugabe was forced into a power-sharing deal last year with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai that has stabilized the economy after a decade of decline

Mugabe — who this year told Western powers to go “to hell” over sanctions — said in an interview with Reuters last month: “They have imposed unjustified and illegal sanctions on us. The sanctions are comparable to the military aggression in Iraq.”

Reuters.

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