Obama set to maintain US towards Zim: Analysts

Tafadzwa Mutasa

HARARE - Barack Obama's election as America's first black president has brought cheers across Africa but will see no change in US policy towards Zimbabwe after the world's most powerful country imposed a raft of sanctions against President Robert Mugabe's government, analysts said.

The outgoing George W. Bush administration joined forces with Zimbabwe’s former colonial power Britain in condemning Mugabe for violently seizing white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks, electoral fraud and bloody violence against opponents.

Outgoing United States Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice once branded Zimbabwe an outpost of tyranny and urged African countries to put pressure to end Mugabe’s 28-year rule.

Certainly American policy towards Zimbabwe will not change. What may change is the style, the approach, because I do not see Mugabe changing his bad ways, John Makumbe, a University of Zimbabwe senior political science lecturer and Mugabe critic said.

Remember that during the run-up to the farcical June run-off election Obama even issued a statement condemning the violence perpetrated by Mugabe supporters against the MDC (opposition Movement for Democratic Change party), said Makumbe.

Mugabe has often hit out at Bush, accusing the US of abusing its power to bully weaker states and for joining Britain in an anti-Zimbabwe alliance.

He argues that Zimbabwe’s economy, bleeding from an official 231 million percent inflation rate, shortages of food and runaway unemployment, has suffered from sanctions imposed by the US and its Western allies

The US has also been pushing for punitive United Nations sanctions against Mugabe’s government, especially in the aftermath of the June 27 presidential election, which the 84-year-old leader won after opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew, citing gross violence against his supporters.

The MDC yesterday said it hoped Obama’s victory would end Bush’s unilateralism and arrogance but that his win against Republican John McCain offered Zimbabweans hope and faith in democracy.

To us, Obama’s victory is a victory of hope, faith, change, a restart, values and dreams which have underpinned our fight as a movement against dictatorship and the neo-fascism of Robert Mugabe, Tendai Biti, MDC secretary general said in a statement.

John McCain’s speech was particularly humbling, instructive and inspiring. If in Africa, incumbents would accept defeat and would graciously depart from the seat of power, this would be a different continent, and indeed Zimbabwe would be a different place.

Media and Information Commission chairman Tafataona Mahoso said Obama was an African genius but that although there were calls for change in American foreign policy, this was unlikely to happen.

American policy is always constant whatever administration is in office, Eldred Masunungure, a leading political analyst said. We could see the toning down of rhetoric but certainly there will be pressure on Harare if there is no immediate resolution to the crisis.

It might as well be that Obama, as a black President may actually be more critical of leaders here so that he does not run the risk of being criticised for standing by while dictators run loose. – ZimOnline

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