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Wharton explains Mugabe exclusion

THE United States remains concerned about democratic processes in Zimbabwe following the controversial 2013 elections, while relations between the two countries are still strained over the country’s huge democratic deficit, US ambassador to Harare Bruce Wharton has said.

Wongai Zhangazha

President Robert Mugabe was not invited by US President Barrack Obama this week at the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit, which saw about 50 African heads of state and the chairperson of the African Union attending.

Zimbabwe, which is desperate for foreign direct investment, lost an opportunity to discuss investment issues with US investors, business executives and members of congress.

responding to written questions from Zimbabwe Independent on the US-Africa Leaders Summit, Wharton said Mugabe was not invited to participate as he was still under US sanctions.

Wharton said: “President Obama invited all African heads of state or government in good standing with the United States and the African Union to attend the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit. President Robert Mugabe is among the leaders not invited to participate. He is currently a Specially Designated National and is subject to US sanctions for undermining democratic processes and institutions in Zimbabwe.”

Asked on the prospects of fully normalising relations between the US and Zimbabwe, Wharton said although his country continued to support Zimbabwe through assistance in health, economic growth, and other key areas, as well as humanitarian areas, it was still worried about human rights issues.

“In the wake of 2013 elections, we remain concerned the democratic process is still subject to political pressure. But at the same time, we don’t want to wait five years for another election to sort of go through this process again,” said Wharton.

“For Zimbabwe, these include aligning the laws with the new constitution, a process which is going to take some time. There are about 400 laws that have to be aligned, that would be a very positive signal. Also being mindful of what politicians say in public, showing that Zimbabwe is a society in which, as President Mugabe said at independence, a place for everyone,” he said.

The ambassador said his country was happy to report that Mugabe recently signed into law legislation to fight human trafficking.

While there have been reports that the US was worried about
China’s economic ties with Zimbabwe and other African countries, Wharton said there was so many opportunities in Africa that could benefit investors from China, Europe, Asia and Australia, among other places.

“The US and China are no longer in an ideological struggle, but we are in a pretty fierce competition for business. We recognise our responsibility to do the best we can to promote Africa as an investment destination; as well as helping American business people work in Africa. Ideally, being mindful of problems like corruption, Africa and Zimbabwe should benefit from this broad international interest in doing business here,” he said.

Meanwhile, deputy Foreign Affairs minister Chris Mutsvangwa said the US needed to remove sanctions.

“All countries have historical issues. The United States have been prime movers of a number of developmental issues in the country. It’s a matter of time that relations are normalised,” he said.
“It would have been important to participate where other African leaders are attending. However, there is an element of stigma in this and it’s not proper. America should desist from sending a bad signal on Zimbabwe. Moreover, America also needs to repeal laws against Zimbabwe and remove the sanctions.”

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