On Government Transparency and Human Rights in Zimbabwe

Harare, Zimbabwe

The year 2013 has the potential to be a landmark turning point in Zimbabwe’s history. With an up-coming referendum on the constitution, the UN World Tourism Summit, and elections, Zimbabweans will have the opportunity to set the foundation for a stable and prosperous future. Zimbabwe’s leaders also have the opportunity to move the country forward by breaking the cycle of instability and violence. As a friend, the United States is eager to support the people of Zimbabwe in seizing these opportunities.

Over the past four years, Zimbabwe has been transformed in ways many thought impossible not so long ago. The road has been bumpy, but the trajectory of the past four years has clearly been positive. Leaders from diverse political perspectives have come together to bring stability back to the country and to set Zimbabwe back on the path toward economic vibrancy. Independent newspapers have proliferated; a Human Rights Commission has been established; instances of violence are down; companies are re-investing; schools are back in session; health clinics are again open and stocked; and government officials come together regularly to hash out their differences and devise compromises that move the country forward for the benefit of the people. Most commendably, the parties in the inclusive government, through commitment and perseverance, have found a workable compromise resulting in a draft constitution that all three parties can endorse. All Zimbabweans should be proud of these successes.

Given these positive developments, the United States is concerned by emerging trends that put the progress Zimbabwe has made at risk. As we get closer to elections, some are attempting to push the country back into the vicious cycle of intimidation, violence, and instability. Elements among the Zimbabwe Republic Police continue to demonstrate a clear partisan bias in arrests, detentions, and investigations – or the lack of such actions – depending on one’s political orientation. Recent months – and, indeed, the past few days since our arrival – have seen a clear pattern of harassment of civil society organizations through spurious charges, extended detentions, and confiscation of materials that impede their activities. Zimbabwe Defense Forces soldiers have been deployed on “administrative support duty” to rural areas country-wide to pressure communities to support one political party. At the same time, police officials are being sent for political indoctrination at Shamva Battle Camp and police commissioners are visiting police camps around the country to exhort officers and their family members to chant pro-ZANU-PF slogans. Revenue flows into the Treasury from the diamond sector lack the transparency Zimbabweans need to ensure that Zimbabweans benefit from the country’s resources. These patterns demonstrate clear efforts to manipulate the rule of law and the electoral playing field. If they continue, it will be difficult to consider the electoral environment conducive to a process consistent with SADC election standards or that yields a clear and legitimate winner.

The United States looks to Zimbabwe’s leaders to rectify these trends and to allow the people the opportunity to exercise their rights to self-determination and freedom from fear. As Zimbabwe seizes the opportunities that 2013 presents, the United States will respond in kind, matching action for action to recognize, reward, and support positive progress.

The United States will respond in kind with tangible positive actions as the country conducts a peaceful and transparent constitutional referendum; as leaders honor the commitments for reform that they made in the Global Political Agreement, constitution, and SADC Roadmap; and as the country conducts and honors the results of a peaceful and credible election. As progress on the ground here merits, we are prepared to ease, and even end, targeted sanctions. We are prepared to expand our foreign assistance partnership. We are prepared to promote new and mutually beneficial business linkages between our countries. We are prepared to re-engage in all areas of bilateral collaboration and to work with any credibly elected government in Zimbabwe.

At the same time, we are also prepared to meet action for action if the destructive trends of those few elements – as noted above – are permitted to continue to deprive the Zimbabwean people of their rights and freedoms. We will not measure Zimbabwe against any externally imposed criteria, but on the laws and commitments that Zimbabweans have established for themselves or agreed to with their neighbors.
Zimbabwe faces great opportunities in 2013. The country’s future is bright. We look to the country’s leaders to seize these opportunities as they did at the dawn of independence to empower the people through stability and unfettered self-determination. Through this process, the people of the United States will stand with you.

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