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US refutes accusations over sanctions

Iden Wetherell

UNITED States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan has rejected accusations that his country’s sanctions have hurt the Zimbabwean economy, saying the damage is entirely


“Zimbabwe’s policies and practices have isolated it from the international community,” he told the Zimbabwe Independent in an interview on Wednesday.

The attitude of the US was not responsible for foreign investors staying away, Sullivan said.

“As Secretary of State Colin Powell has pointed out, international capital is a coward. It avoids like the plague places where the rule of law does not obtain – where there are no macro-economic fundamentals,” Sullivan said.

Nor was the US responsible for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund giving Harare the cold shoulder. Zimbabwe ceased payment of its obligations to the Bretton Woods institutions in 2001, he pointed out.

Sanctions have not prevented Zimbabwe exporting goods worth US$100 million on a preferential basis to the US market last year. Nor have they stood in the way of the US$140 million a year the US has spent over the past two years on food and HIV/Aids prevention, Sullivan said.

While the US had experienced only minor interference with its food distribution, there were “many credible reports of partisan distribution of food by government”, he said.

Legislation governing sanctions was directed solely at those responsible for the breakdown in the rule of law, Sullivan said. While it was not possible to disclose the names of those to whom travel restrictions applied because of US privacy laws, those affected had been informed, he said.

The names of those to whom financial sanctions apply were published earlier this year.

Contrary to reports that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change had a hand in framing the US Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, Sullivan said no parties other than those in the US had a role.

He noted that for the past two years 50% of Zimbabweans have needed food assistance. Zimbabwe’s neighbours who were equally affected by drought last year reported only 20% of their populations in need. This year the figure was lower still while Zimbabwe’s remained at over 50%.

At the height of the catastrophic drought in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s, only 20% of its population required and received aid, Sullivan noted.

The US favours inter-party dialogue as the route back to legitimacy,

Sullivan said. “The 2002 election did not confer democratic legitimacy on this government because of the way it was conducted,” he said.

“Democratic government requires a free and fair process.”

The ambassador said while it was impossible to say there had been progress in restoring democratic institutions or democratic practice and a return to the rule of law, it was important to leave those goals in place.

It was US policy “to see Zimbabwe become a prosperous democratic country that respects the rule of law”, the ambassador said.

Both President George Bush and Secretary Powell have pointed out that Zimbabwe is not adhering to its own commitments.

“I have in private conversations with government officials heard that addressing the political crisis was critical in order to address the economic crisis,” Sullivan said. “But we have not seen the political crisis addressed with the urgency articulated in private conversations.”

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