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African Union says:

Lift sanctions against Zimbabwe now

Published Feb 4, 2009 2:38 PM

Recent political developments surrounding the formation of a national unity government in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe provide greater impetus for the peoples of the continent and world to demand the immediate lifting of economic sanctions against the country.

A stalled agreement reached last September to create an inclusive government of national unity was finally implemented after weeks of discussions led by South Africa. The agreement is scheduled to take effect on Feb. 13.

Zimbabwe, the target of a well-financed destabilization campaign over the last decade, has been severely affected by the foreign policy imperatives of the Western imperialist countries and their surrogates. They have created serious social and humanitarian challenges for this nation, which won its independence from Britain in 1980.

Results from the African Union summit—held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the week of Feb. 1—clearly urged the United States, Britain and the European Union to end their economic blockade against Zimbabwe. The AU, the continental organization of independent states, has worked for years to ensure a political solution in Zimbabwe that would maintain the country’s stability and guarantee its future as a sovereign state.

According to the Feb. 2 Zimbabwe Herald, “The 53-member African Union executive council on Saturday [Jan. 31] adopted a resolution calling for the immediate lifting of the American and European Union-led economic embargo, saying the international community should instead support Zimbabwe’s inclusive government.”

In response to the current situation in Zimbabwe, the chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr. Jean Ping of Gabon, said, “I think that everybody today should help Zimbabwe to rebuild its economy because an agreement has been reached.” (Feb. 2, Zimbabwe Herald)

Ping hailed the efforts of the regional 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC), under the leadership of South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, for its efforts in mediating the inclusive governmental agreement in Zimbabwe between the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriot Front (ZANU-PF) and the opposition parties, the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and the MDC-Mutambara (MDC-M).

Jakaya Kikwete, the outgoing AU chairperson and president of Tanzania, said during the summit, “The situation looks promising, it is a step forward.” Numerous messages of support and praise poured in to the summit after South African presidential spokesperson Thabo Masebe also reiterated the call for the rapid lifting of sanctions. Masebe made the point that “this stage is critical in terms of achieving political stability and the first step towards the economic recovery of that country.” (Zimbabwe Herald, Feb. 2)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe arrived at the AU summit on Jan. 31 and participated fully in the discussions on Feb. 1, which were designed to create a federal continental government for Africa. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who also attended the AU summit and will be the AU’s new elected chairperson, is urging the continent’s leaders to establish the federal system. This idea has been advocated since 1958, when Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first prime minister and leader of the post-independence liberation struggles on the continent, hosted the All-African Peoples Conference in Accra.

Gaddafi’s proposed continental government would be based on three pillars: foreign affairs, defense and trade. Some African states have endorsed the idea of the continental government, while others have taken a more gradualist approach that would see the creation of a federal union government over an extended period of time.

The decision to openly debate the creation of a federal union government was reached at the last AU summit held in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, in July. According to the Zimbabwe Herald of Feb. 2, “Those countries advocating for a Union Government have set an ambitious goal of uniting the continent and sharing its wealth in a manner that benefits all Africans.”

Challenges of reconstruction

Over the last decade, Zimbabwe has been seriously affected by the imposition of economic sanctions and corporate media vilification that sought to justify the imperialist attacks on this independent African state. At present unemployment is high inside the country and hyperinflation has rendered the national currency virtually worthless.

A recent outbreak of cholera resulted from the government’s inability to import the necessary water purification chemicals that prevent water-borne diseases. Civil servants, military personnel and other workers are faced with tremendous hurdles in securing basic food stuffs and transport services.

It has been reported that approximately 2,500-3,000 people have died from cholera over the last several months and some 60,000 may have been infected.

Referring to the coalition government, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said: “This is an important step towards ending the political impasse in Zimbabwe, but it is not a guarantee that Zimbabwe’s distress is over.

“Rebuilding the economy and ending the people’s suffering will take much more work on the part of all Zimbabweans, regional leaders and the international community.” (Agence France-Presse, Feb. 1)

An international appeal for immediate relief

Zimbabwe has been subjected to a campaign of destabilization and underdevelopment since the ruling ZANU-PF party, at the aegis of the revolutionary war veterans, instituted a comprehensive land reform program for the country. A national liberation war during the 1960s and 1970s had been fought by the African people to regain their land and political independence stolen by the British colonialists beginning in the 1890s.

During 2000, thousands of war veterans and their supporters marched onto European settler-controlled farms and seized the land. The Lancaster House agreements of 1979, which ended the revolutionary war and brought Zimbabwe independence, did not institute the land reform that was the basis of the liberation struggle.

However, the imperialist nations of the U.S. and Britain had promised to provide assistance to the European settlers so that they could hand over land to the African people who had been displaced during the colonial era. This aid from the Western states was never forthcoming. Consequently, the ZANU-PF government had no choice but to support the land seizure, which became known as the Third Chimurenga (struggle).

The opposition MDC was formed with the financial and political backing of the imperialist states. With the creation of an inclusive national unity government, the imperialists, even based on their own logic, have no legitimate reason to continue the sanctions against Zimbabwe. This has been the cry of the African continent emanating from SADC and the AU.

As with the Palestinians in Gaza, the blockade in Zimbabwe has been devastating to the civilian population. The Britain-based Overseas Aid Commission announced on Jan. 31 that it would send assistance to both Gaza and Zimbabwe.

Anti-imperialist and anti-war activists in the U.S. and other Western capitalist states must demand that the sanctions be immediately lifted against Zimbabwe. In addition to this demand, there should be an appeal for the transport of medicines, medical personnel and supplies, bottled water, food and other humanitarian assistance to the people of Zimbabwe.

Also there needs to be a fundamental change in Africa policy emanating from U.S., Britain and the European Union. The Obama administration garnered the support of the majority of the people in the U.S. because of the mass sentiment opposing racism, economic exploitation, militarism and military intervention.

It is the obligation of those that supported his election, as well as all people of conscience, to demand that not only sanctions be lifted against Zimbabwe but that a new foreign policy orientation be developed that emphasizes people-to-people contacts, non-intervention, and respect for the independence and sovereignty of African states.