US policy – renewed engagement

EDITOR - Over the past five years the United States policy toward Zimbabwe has remained principled and pointed, even in its varying formulations. The cornerstone of the US policy has been the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act. In the face of sheer intransigence on the part of the Mu

gabe regime to adopt democratic reform, the US government formulated and implemented a set of benign measures – the travel ban and asset freeze, in an attempt to induce Zimbabwe’s ruling elite to re-think their strategy. To compliment the US commitment to democracy the US turned the dial up on political rhetoric calling for regime change in Zimbabwe. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, America’s leading diplomat put Mugabe on notice, pledging US support for Zimbabwe’s transition to democracy.

Following the US President G. W Bush’s visit to Africa in June of 2004, and subsequent consultations with Zimbabwe’s southern neighbor the US adopted a back seat approach in calling for change, allowing Thabo Mbeki’s policy of quite diplomacy to take centre stage.

Despite the labeling of Zimbabwe as the outpost of tyranny by current US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, constructive engagement with regional governments and the Mugabe regime will remain the United States policy position on Zimbabwe.

With the failure of South Africa’s quite diplomacy initiative, evidenced by declining conditions in Zimbabwe, and the chaotic political landscape in Zimbabwe, coupled by the conspicuous rise of the Chinese presence in the region, the US has been forced to pursue a policy that brings about a quick resolution to the Zimbabwean impasse, while maintaining a strategic presence in the region.

Hence the resurgence of the US government’s annual forums with the countries of the Southern African Development Community. US-SADC dialogue had been impeded to date by the region’s complicit support for the Mugabe regime. However, the African Union’s current position on the Zimbabwean crisis paves the way for renewed engagement with African States, with the hope that Zimbabwe would be brought into the broader discussion, where their peers are sitting at the table as well.

With the stability of the Southern African region being threatened by the progressive collapse of the Zimbabwean economy and the fluctuating internal socio-political conditions elevating Zimbabwe to a failed state status, America’s policy is likely to move beyond humanitarianism to include, a substantial human socio-political development dimension. However, this progression could be impeded by the rapid brain drain and declining social conditions currently being experienced in Zimbabwe.

RALPH BLACK, North American Coalition for a Free Zimbabwe

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