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Reforms key to re-engagement

WHEN Government of National Unity was formed in 2009, there was hope it would provide an opportunity for re-engagement and restoration of between Zimbabwe and the international community, especially the EU and the United States.
The GNU set up a ministerial team to engage the EU on sanctions under Article 8 of the 2000 Cotonou Agreement. Article 96 Cotonou Agreement of June 23 2000 – to which Zimbabwe is a signatory – specifically deals with issues concerning the respect for the rule of law, human rights, democracy and accountability.

However, not much progress has been since 2009. Zimbabwe still remains largely a pariah state and parties to the inclusive government are struggling to convince the EU and the US to lift targeted sanctions imposed on President Mugabe and his inner cabal, as well as limited financial restrictions.

The government ministerial team regrouped this week to strategise once more before embarking on a mission to knock on the doors of Western countries. The team comprises Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, Tendai Biti (Finance), Elton Mangoma (Energy and Power Development), Priscilla Misihairabwi (Regional and International Cooperation) and the Organ of National Healing co-chair Moses Mzila Ndlovu.

The regrouping by ministers follows a resolution by principals last week that re-engagement must be resuscitated.

The sending of the team by the principals back into the field to explore avenues for re-engagement at this juncture could turn out to be an exercise in futility. The ministers are merely testing the waters as they know how this will be received in Western capitals.

While the GNU in its early days offered hope for Zimbabwe’s return into the community of nations, it has over the years continued to degenerate into a citadel of negative political contest in which principals have had to negotiate basic tenets of governance on a weekly basis.

Nothing works without a fight and the raging power struggles have stymied the GNU from dealing with political reforms which are a key pre-condition to successful re-engagement.

The biggest shortcoming of the GNU has been failure to implement agreed issues under the Global Political Agreement (GPA). Western governments and donor agencies argue that re-engagement will be determined by the implementation of the GPA and progress towards the “Hague Principles” established for engagement with Zimbabwe.

The principles state that non-humanitarian assistance will be closely linked to progress on governance and democracy. The reforms specified in the principles include full and equal access to humanitarian assistance, commitment to macro-economic stabilisation, restoration of the rule of law, including enforcement of contracts, an independent judiciary, and respect for property rights.

Commitment to the democratic process and respect for internationally accepted human rights standards, including a commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of print and broadcast media, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association and the holding of timely elections in accordance with international standards are some of the issues benchmarked.

The Cotonou Agreement set out the same essential elements of partnership between European countries and the ACP states, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory. Respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law underpin the ACP-EU Partnership.

So what the EU and US are saying to Zimbabwe is that first meet the benchmarks of your own local and international obligations before sanctions could be lifted.

The conditions set by the EU and US to ensure successful re-engagement resonate with keyAfrican standards of good governance. These can be found in the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections which were promulgated at the regional bloc’s summit in Grand Baie, Mauritius in August 2004. The principles are restated in the African Union Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. This shows principles on good governance are universal.

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