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US warns citizens over travel to Zim

Gift Phiri

THE US State Department this week warned its citizens against travelling to Zimbabwe and urged those in the country to be cautious.

sans-serif”>An updated travel warning issued on Monday noted “Zimbabwe continues to be in the midst of political, economic and humanitarian crises with serious implications for the security situation in the country”.

It warned US citizens of the “risks of travel to Zimbabwe” and urged all to take “measures they deem appropriate to ensure their well-being”.

The security warning should have a chilling effect on the already depressed tourist arrivals from traditional source markets which usually take heed of State Department security advice.

The advisory cites an economy “in precipitous decline” and a “serious increase in crime”. It also warns that half the population of Zimbabwe faces famine.

The situation has been precipitated by a series of unworkable policies, including the haphazard land reform programme that has worsened the economic crisis and left millions in the country, once southern Africa’s breadbasket, in dire need of food aid.

Mugabe has refused to engage the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to find a solution to the country’s multi-layered crisis, charging that the party is a front for Western countries bent on driving him out of office.

The State Department also warned that Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis was expected to worsen in coming months and could lead to large-scale migration of Zimbabweans to urban or border areas, with further social disruption and an increase in crime and instability.It advised Americans to avoid commercial farms, especially those occupied by settlers or so-called “war veterans”, who are typically young government supporters acting with alleged impunity outside the law.

In November 2002, US Embassy staff members were detained and one was beaten by war veterans on a farm near Harare, the advisory said. The US has consistently criticised Mugabe’s government for human rights violations.

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