World leaders welcome Tsvangirai

tsvangirai_barakLONDON - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai will tomorrow be warmly welcomed to the White House by President Barack Obama. This will be the highlight of the Prime Ministers inaugural international tour of friendly donor nations who between them have contributed billions of US dollars to keeping Zimbabweans alive during the past 10 years.

Tomorrows meeting comes on the heels of Tsvangirais meeting with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and other top officials. Earlier this week the White House issued a statement saying President Obama was looking forward to welcoming Tsvangirai to the Oval Office on Friday, June 12.

The Prime Minister, along with millions of Zimbabweans, has been working against the odds to secure a stable democratic future for the people of Zimbabwe. The two leaders will discuss the difficult road ahead in Zimbabwe, including how the United States can support the forces of reform as they work to bring the rule of law, respect for human rights, and free and fair elections back to Zimbabwe, says the statement.

The Prime Minister can expect to be told that Washington is troubled by the absence of reform in Zimbabwe and has no immediate plans to offer major aid or lift the targeted measures against President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) allies.
Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of State for African Affairs, and a former American ambassador to Zimbabwe, said more political, social and economic reforms were needed either before substantial U.S. aid could kick in or targeted sanctions against Mugabe were lifted.

Non-existent sanctions
The targeted measures include financial and travel restrictions against top Zanu (PF)
officials, a ban on sales of military items and a suspension of non-humanitarian aid.
“There is no indication that the U.S. government is prepared to lift economic sanctions against those in Zimbabwe who have been most responsible for undermining the country’s democracy and destroying its economy,” Carson told Reuters News Agency.
“Increasingly substantial aid is dependent upon them making political concessions and fulfilling the agreements that they have already made and in returning the country back towards more democratic rule,” he said.

As an African American who has actually lived in Zimbabwe, Carson is particularly well suited to advise Obama on the difficult road ahead. His deep affection for the country is well-known. During his tenure in Harare in the 1990s, Carson endeared himself to many Zimbabweans through his obvious concern for the wellbeing of the country and its people. His compassion and interest went well beyond the normal call of duty.
While “deeply concerned” about the lack of reforms, Carson said the U.S. would continue humanitarian assistance, particularly for healthcare, and to boost democracy and governance in Zimbabwe.

No press freedom
Points of particular concern to the US and other western nations that were raised during Tsvangirais visit include:

> continued harassment by state security forces of MDC and civil society activists and journalists;

> the absence of press freedom;

> restrictions on foreign journalists coming into the country;

> continued squabbling about implementation of the GPA particularly continuation in office of Gideon Gono and Johannes Tomana;

> lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law;

> lack of commitment by Zanu (PF) to free and fair elections.

Carson said Zimbabweans deserved a democratically elected leadership that resulted from free and fair elections, during which people were allowed to vote without fear.
Tsvangirais message to the west is that the GNU needs US$8,5 billion to get the country back on its feet. So far they have raised US$1 billion most of it in lines of credit from African nations.

But the international community is sceptical given Mugabes continued belligerence and human rights abuses. Western government trust Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, but they dont trust the Reserve Bank under Gideon Gono to handle their taxpayers money. They have said they are willing to help, but until real change is apparent they are going to find ways of getting the money to the people without it going through the government coffers. This may mean giving it directly to MDC-controlled ministries or NGOs.

Hostile media
One of Tsvangirais main problems is that he still has a hostile government media undermining him at every step. For example, recent reports in the state-controlled media have deliberately distorted the purpose of his current trip. They have created the false impression that he has been mandated by Mugabe to travel to the West to call specifically for the lifting of ” sanctions”.

MDC parliamentarian, Senator Obert Gutu, told The Zimbabwean this was: A desperate and wicked attempt to denigrate both the person and the office of the Prime Minister. It is this type of dangerous and myopic approach to news dissemination that will ultimately prove to be the most lethal poison to the institution that we call the inclusive government in Zimbabwe.

Whilst I am not privy to the deliberations of Cabinet, I have every reason to challenge the allegation that Mugabe and Cabinet have mandated PM Tsvangirai to travel abroad to call for the lifting of ”sanctions”. I have conversed with a number of Cabinet ministers and none of them was able to give credibility to The Herald story on Tuesday which said Tsvangirai was in the Netherlands on a brief from Mugabe and Cabinet to call for the lifting of economic sanctions, said Gutu.

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