Zimbabwe, once a pride of Africa and its breadbasket, has fallen far in recent decades, driven down by government policies, political violence and economic decline. The nation's leaders, after many years of confrontation, now seek to re-engage with the West, hoping to see an easing of targeted sanctions they blame for many of the country's problems. Some restrictions, in fact, have been removed by the European Union against some officials, and the possibility of financial aid has been discussed.
The United States, however, believes that current circumstances in the troubled Southern African nation do not merit a change in our policies there, though we remain hopeful that in the future they will.
Last month, two top U.S. diplomats, deputy assistant secretaries of State Shannon Smith and Steven Feldstein, spent four days in Zimbabwe assessing conditions there with government leaders, U.S. embassy staff, opposition lawmakers and civil society. In the meetings, they reaffirmed U.S. messages of support for the Zimbabwean people and communicated our nation's hopes for economic development and democratic reforms. They also pressed the case of human rights activist Itai Dzamara, who went missing on March 9 after having been forced into a car by five men. He hasn’t been seen since.
What they found was a fractured political system, an economy in desperate straits and looming food insecurity caused by drought and harmful government agricultural policies.
Against this backdrop, they reported at the time and Mr. Smith repeated in a hearing before our Congress on June 2 that U.S. interests in Zimbabwe remain the same. Travel and financial sanctions imposed on government leaders and their supporters linked to political violence and human rights abuses will remain in place, while we continue to support and promote a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe that provides for its people and contributes to regional stability.
To realize these interests, we will remain engaged with both government and non-government leaders alike to work together in areas of common concern. In so doing, the United States remains the leading provider of humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe in the form of food aid, HIV/AIDS prevention programs, democracy, humanitarian assistance, economic growth, agriculture and health infrastructure support. Our assistance has saved countless lives, is strengthening civil society, and is laying the groundwork for a brighter future for the Zimbabwean people.