THE United States government has exerted pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to stop gross human rights violations, in the wake of a violent crackdown on pro-democracy activists and opposition party supporters by the army and police.
This also comes as an American congressional think-tank, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), in a report released this week, set the tone for further action by the US congress, which last year extended sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The Mnangagwa administration has courted global controversy by applying brute force in quashing recent protests in the country’s major cities.
The army and police have also been accused of perpetrating human rights abuses such as rape and torture during the clampdown, crimes which attract protesting global outrage.
The crackdown, which left a dozen dead and scores critically injured, was sparked by nationwide demonstrations a fortnight ago against 150% fuel increase by Mnangagwa before he left for his four-nation Eurasian tour.
The US embassy in Harare this week expressed concern over detentions and human rights abuses perpetrated by members of the security services in the past two weeks.
“Credible reports of numerous detentions, beatings, rapes and other abuses of Zimbabweans over the past two weeks particularly targeting opposition and civil society activists,” US embassy spokesperson Stacy Lumba told the Zimbabwe Independent on Tuesday.
“Peaceful protests should not be met by violence, intimidation, or harassment. We have urged the Zimbabwean government to cease the targeted and arbitrary detention of political activists, and civil society and labour leaders. We have also called on the Zimbabwean government to cease reprisals against the family members of activists. The United States supports freedom of expression, freedom of association, and peaceful assembly for Zimbabweans, in accordance with the country’s constitution,” Lumba said.
Continued crackdown by the security agents could attract fresh sanctions, according to the CRS report obtained by the Independent this week.
The report titled “Zimbabwe’s Political Transition: Issues for Congress” warns against disregard for human rights.
“Subsequent US responses, if any, are likely to depend on Mnangagwa’s record in office and the relative credibility of the 2018 elections,” the report points out
“If U.S. policymakers view his actions as negative, they might respond with new targeted sanctions, censure, and other tactics to compel change.”
Several reports, including that of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, blame the army and the police for killing and injuring protesters.
Local and international media houses have equally been exposing the heavy-handed response by the state. The crackdown has had a negative impact on government’s re-engagement initiative.
Mnangagwa this week promised to act against human rights abuses following a SkyNews report detailing how three army officials callously assaulted an unidentified man along Chiremba Road.
“I was appalled by today’s @SkyNews report. That is not the Zimbabwean way. I have instructed that the individuals behind this be arrested and encourage all those impacted to contact the authorities and file an official complaint,” Mnangagwa wrote on his micro-blogging site Twitter account.
The sentiments by the US government follow widespread condemnation of the violent crackdown. Zimbabwe’s bid to re-join the Commonwealth has also suffered a major blow.
Zimbabwe was looking to re-join the Commonwealth since former president Robert Mugabe pulled out of the bloc in 2003.