Chisi is the founder and director of the Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe (YIDEZ), which runs an academy for 18- to 35-year-olds focused on developing leadership skills and empowering them to take action.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Harare, YIDEZ helped to boost youth participation in Zimbabwes March 2008 elections from a mere 10 percent to a significant 28 percent.
Embassy officials recognised Chisis ability to enhance Zimbabwean youth political activism in rural and urban communities, including farms that have been targeted by Zanu (PF) autocrats. His experience and influence are also being put to effective use in his position as the spokesman for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a network of 350 grass-roots civil society organisations.
Chisi said he wanted to talk to fellow Africans about ways to increase the capacity of young people to build synergies with other critical partners who would help in leadership development. Engagement with others doing similar work not only would boost YIDEZ, but also raise the effectiveness of other pro-democratic parties or any institutions that believe in people-centred development, he said.
Obama told the African youth forum he was keen to open up greater diplomatic relations and economic and commercial ties with Zimbabwe.
Chisi had asked the President: How has been the success of Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) forced the formation of the inclusive government? Because within Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe is still using the rhetoric of sanctions, racist, property rights abuse, human rights abuse in violation to the rule of law. How has been the success of that towards the implementation — the success of the growth of young people?
And so, you know, there have been discussions, when I’ve travelled with leaders in the southern African region, about whether or not sanctions against Zimbabwe are or are not counterproductive, said Obama. I will tell you, I would love nothing more than to be able to open up greater diplomatic relationships and economic and commercial relationships with Zimbabwe.
But in order to do so, we’ve got to see some signal that it will not simply entrench the same past abuses but rather will move us in a new direction that actually helps the people. And Zimbabwe is a classic example of a country that should be the breadbasket for an entire region. It’s a spectacular country.
Now, it had — it had to undergo a transition from white-minority rule that was very painful and very difficult. But you know, they have chosen a path that’s different than the path that South Africa chose.
South Africa has its problems. But from what everybody could see during the World Cup — you know, the potential for moving that country forward in — as a multiracial African democracy that can succeed on the world stage, that’s a model that so far at least Zimbabwe has not followed. And that’s where I’d like to see it go, said Obama.
Some US senators are seeking to amend the ZIDERA of 2001 the law that imposed visa and financial sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his top allies by maintaining the punitive measures on hardliners opposed to political reform, while rewarding ministries controlled by reformers. The proposed amendments to ZIDERA allow for Zimbabwe to access funding from multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to go towards food security, health, education and infrastructure development and becoming eligible for debt relief.
And, you know, this always poses a different — difficult question for U.S. foreign policy, added Obama. Because on the one hand, we don’t want to punish the people for the abuses of a leader. On the other hand, we have very little leverage other than saying, if — if there are just systematic abuses by a government, we are not going to deal with them commercially, we’re not going to deal with them politically, in ways that we would with countries that are observing basic human- rights principles.
Obama told the youth forum: I’m heartbroken when I see what’s happened in Zimbabwe. I think Mugabe’s an example of a leader who came in as a liberation fighter, and I’m just going to be very blunt, he — I do not see him serving his people well. And the abuses, the human-rights abuses, the violence that’s been perpetrated against opposition leaders, I think is — is terrible.
Now, Tsvangirai has tried to work, he — despite the fact that he himself has been beaten and imprisoned. He has now tried to work to see if there’s a gradual transition that might take place. But so far the results have not been what we had hoped.
And, you know, this always poses a different — difficult question for U.S. foreign policy. Because on the one hand, we don’t want to punish the people for the abuses of a leader. On the other hand, we have very little leverage other than saying, if — if there are just systematic abuses by a government, we are not going to deal with them commercially, we’re not going to deal with them politically, in ways that we would with countries that are observing basic human- rights principles.
In nominating Chisi to participate in the Washington forum, the embassy noted that in Zimbabwe, as well as in many African countries, leaders were remaining in their positions so long that they were keeping their childrens generation from succeeding them.Post published in: News