REPORTS that US President Barack Obama would snub President Robert Mugabe by not inviting him to the US-Africa summit slated for August are perturbing on several fronts, not least because it suggests the country still has a long way to go before fully shedding its perceived pariah status.
Candid Comment with Stewart Chabwinja
Obama is expected to invite 47 of the 54 African leaders to the summit that seeks to increase US trade, development and security ties with the continent.
But Zimbabwe, which held general elections last July 31 to retire a coalition government, is a notable exclusion as stubborn concerns over the conduct of the election, its human rights record and the rule of law refuse to peter out.
While there appears to be general consensus, especially within the region and continent, and among Zimbabweans in general, that the country has to move on despite a flawed poll, events over the past week suggest the ghost of the disputed elections continues to haunt the country anxious to reengage the West and reclaim its place among the family of nations.
At a time the Zanu PF government is pondering over how to make good on its poll promises, or, more likely, groping for excuses, developments seem to be conspiring to remind the country it remains stuck in the woods.
The Obama rebuff is hardly surprising for while Sadc and the AU gave qualified endorsements of Zimbabwe’s elections despite glaring shortcomings, the West insists that while largely violence-free the polls were neither sufficiently fair nor credible.
Apart from the US snub, strong indications are that the European Union, which meets in a fortnight to review targeted sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his inner circle, will extend the measures —which Zanu PF says are “illegal” — for a further one year.
That would deal a body blow to the country’s efforts to lure foreign direct investment at a time the economy is in decline. It also suggests a nine-member business delegation to the EU later this month will return home empty-handed.
The lifting of all remaining sanctions is deemed key to unlocking crucial lines of credit to finance the country’s ambitious economic blueprint, ZimAsset, which government touts as the panacea for economic recovery and growth.
Elsewhere, in its latest report Human Rights Watch (HRW) rekindled the debate over the elections by slamming Sadc and the AU over their stance.
“The ability of key international actors to apply pressure on Zimbabwe for a resolution of the election dispute, and for improvements in human rights and governance, was largely nullified by Sadc and the AU’s endorsement of the July elections,” HRW writes in its latest report launched Tuesday.
“The discord among key actors diminished international pressure to address the disputed election and help resolve Zimbabwe’s pressing human rights and governance issues…” HRW argues.
It goes to prove that despite the country and region’s efforts to let electoral bygones be bygones, the poll narrative is proving to be the proverbial millstone around the nation’s neck despite our best efforts to relegate in to the backburner.