by Pete Bowyer
The EU Foreign Affairs Council has just announced its decision on Zimbabwean sanctions in a press communique from Brussels this afternoon. It is worse than campaigners could possibly have feared.
Not only have EU foreign ministers agreed to suspend the majority of all remaining sanctions on Mugabe and his regime following a “peaceful and credible constitutional referendum” next month, they have also agreed “to suspend immediately the travel ban imposed on 6 Members of the government of Zimbabwe. The EU has also agreed to delist 21 persons and one entity subject to restrictive measures.”
International NGOs such as Global Witness, Human Rights Watch and Justice Zimbabwe who have been campaigning for those in Zimbabwe who have been complicit in human rights abuses to be added to the sanctions list and for measures to be deferred until after free and fair elections in the summer have been snubbed.
In practice, the decision means EU sanctions have immediately been lifted on almost a quarter of Mugabe’s cronies currently effected by the measures on little more than vague promises, and no real change on the ground in terms of human rights abuses and respect for the rule of law. Ironically, it comes on the very same day as the EU Foreign Affairs Council reaffirmed its support for the “promotion and protection of human rights around the world” in a separate communiqué.
The decision, agreed unanimously by EU Foreign Secretaries, including British Foreign Secretary William Hague, represents a major victory for President Mugabe and a significant success for the Belgian government who had been pushing a softer EU line towards Zimbabwe.
It is a stunning volte face from Hague who had previously advocated a more principled and robust approach to Mugabe. Britain now appears to have derogated its influence over geo-politics in southern Africa to the diamond traders of Antwerp.
It should come as no surprise that the Foreign Secretary has yet to comment publicly on the ignominy. But the left should take no comfort from this decision either. Whilst once Mugabe was the focal point of campaigns against a despotic regime which murdered thousands of its own citizens and impoverished a nation, anger has diminished in recent years despite little noticeable improvements on the ground.
Today is a milestone. A milestone in the rehabilitation of Mugabe by the West who has been rewarded for the failure of a nation.