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The Situation in Zimbabwe & Implementing Sanctions

Joint Statement Philip Reeker Washington, DC March 12, 2003

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Mark Bellamy and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor J. Scott Carpenter on the Situation in Zimbabwe and Current Steps Towards Implementing U.S. Sanctions

MR. REEKER: We have a special briefing for you this afternoon on the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, a crisis which has been created by Robert Mugabe and his cronies. And we have two specialists in this field to talk to you a bit about that this afternoon.

As you will recall, last week the President imposed certain sanctions by Executive Order, and they will be able to expand on that a little bit as necessary. You have that information. We will be distributing a brochure, which highlights a number of these issues, as well as some follow-up documents of things that have emerged since the brochure itself was published.

But let me get straight to introducing our guests. We have the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs from the Department of State Mark Bellamy, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Carpenter. Each of our Deputy Assistant Secretaries will have brief opening remarks and then be here to take your questions.

So without any further ado, why don't I turn it over to both of them.

MR. CARPENTER: Thank you, Phil. This is the report that we are going to be issuing today, and we are here to talk about Zimbabwe. In case anybody is here to talk about Iraq, this is the wrong place.

Zimbabwe is a place where human rights are violated every day and people are still awaiting freedom, they are still awaiting prosperity. Mugabe has brought the country of Zimbabwe untold suffering. This report catalogs what he has done to the country.

When Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980, it had a model constitution, an intact, respected judiciary which was functioning. Zimbabwe was poised to become a success story for democracy, a success story for free markets, something that was desperately needed in southern Africa at the time.

Within three years, these bright prospects started to dim. Mugabe embarked on a reign of terror to consolidate political power -- his political power. Using troops trained by North Koreans, he crushed his major political opponent, Joshua Nkomo, killing over 20,000 Zimbabweans and torturing thousands more in the process. This bloodbath brought a decade of increasing subservience to Mugabe, but by the mid-'90s, profound economic mismanagement and electoral manipulation led to the emergence of a significant opposition and a new threat to Mugabe's power.

But, rather than change course and address underlying problems, in early 2000, Mugabe proposed a series of constitutional reforms designed to further the referendum to entrench his power. Opposition parties and NGOs boycotted the process and the referendum was rejected by voters despite government-organized violence.

Shortly afterwards, a violent campaign against real or suspected opponents of the regime began. In the parliamentary elections, Mugabe's ZANU-PF Party was opposed by the Movement for Democratic Change. Waves of political violence were unable to deter voters from giving the MDC nearly 50 percent of the seats.

The March 2002 presidential election, a process declared fundamentally flawed and illegitimate by international observers, as well as the South African Development Community, resulted in Mugabe's retaining power. The vote also resulted in an intensification of violence against Mugabe's opponents, further restrictions on press, further restrictions on other freedoms, and a continuation of land seizures and profound economic decline.

The failure of Zimbabwe gives a bloody example of the primacy of human rights -- the failure of Zimbabwe gives a bloody example of the primacy of human rights and democratic principles. By riding roughshod over the political and human rights of his fellow Zimbabweans, by demonstrating his total disregard for human rights and democracy, Robert Mugabe has succeeded in reducing a once promising nation with a bright future to a state of ruin, desolation, and isolation.

The publication we have prepared, "Zimbabwe's Manmade Crisis," recounts, in at times gruesome detail, how the people of Zimbabwe have suffered, how the people of Zimbabwe continue to suffer. It is a sterling example of how depriving people of their human rights tears at the fabric of society, destroys their economic well-being, and sews the seeds of chaos and perhaps of collapse.

Moreover, the tragic case of Zimbabwe gives further evidence, if any were needed, of the core importance of human rights in the maintenance and progress of nations.

In the words of the International Crisis Group's 2002 Report on Zimbabwe, "ZANU-PF and the Government are still systematically using violence to punish the MDC and civil society and compel them to accept the flawed election results. Food is becoming scarcer, and with the regional drought, compounding the land seizure crisis. UN agencies warn of possible famines."

That's the conclusion of my short statement. I'd invite Mark to add his comments, and then we will take questions.

Please, Mark.

MR. BELLAMY: Thanks, Scott.

Scott has described the situation in Zimbabwe, and give some background. I would only like to say that we thought it worthwhile to talk about Zimbabwe today because there are many other crises in Africa, which perhaps get more attention, and global attention generally is not focused on Africa to the same extent that it is on the Gulf, Middle East, and other areas today, but it's important that we not lose sight of the tragedy that has overtaken Zimbabwe, tragedy which Scott has just described to you.

The booklet that we are releasing today catalogues the increasing repression, coupled with the disdain for the rule of law and the increasingly flagrant human rights abuses that have occurred in Zimbabwe over the past couple of years. All of these are linked to the economic collapse of the country, about which I will talk a little bit more in a few moments.

Last week, on March 7th, the President issued an Executive Order, which freezes the assets of Robert Mugabe and 76 other Zimbabwean officials deemed most responsible for the crisis in Zimbabwe. Among other things, the Executive Order prohibits U.S. citizens from engaging in any financial transactions with these listed individuals.

We have a range of targeted sanctions in place on Zimbabwe, as does the EU and a handful of other countries. These targeted sanctions can only be effective if they are consistently and rigorously applied. This is especially true of travel sanctions adopted by the United States and the EU. By taking away travel and financial privileges of those most responsible for the crisis in Zimbabwe, we raise the costs of their misrule, we underline Zimbabwe's diplomatic isolation, and we give hope to those in Zimbabwe who are struggling for a better future.

Let me -- Scott has described the human rights and political crisis in Zimbabwe. The pamphlet we are issuing today goes into much more detail. I would just want to leave with you a few indicators of the economic ruin -- and I think ruin is not too strong a word -- that has overtaken Zimbabwe in a very, very short time. Our latest estimates show that there may be as many as 2 million Zimbabweans today who are displaced persons, and this includes over a million farm workers and their families who, in the past year-and-a-half, have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Increasingly, we see in Zimbabwe number of people who are on the move in the country, in search of food and work.

Inflation in Zimbabwe is running at over 200 percent. Unemployment has climbed to 70 percent. The economy in Zimbabwe is expected to contract by 11 percent in 2003. This is following a 12 percent contraction in GDP in 2002. I think it's fair to say it's often said that Zimbabwe has the dubious distinction of being the fastest contracting economy in the world today.

Basic commodities are largely, or many basic commodities are largely unavailable, due to price controls, a shortage of foreign exchange. Tragically, in a country that, until only two years ago, was considered a breadbasket of Southern Africa and was a reliable exporter of agricultural surpluses, 7.2 million Zimbabweans, almost half the population, are today in need of food assistance; and one of the more poignant results of the food crisis in Zimbabwe is the fact that a Zimbabwean newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS today has a life expectancy of one year. Two years ago, a Zimbabwean newly diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS had a life expectancy of seven years.

This is only one indication, only a few indications of the magnitude of the crisis that has overtaken what was once one of Africa's most promising and prosperous economies.

I mentioned targeted sanctions a moment ago. Sanctions are part of the answer. They're not the entire answer. Clearly, what is needed is concerted international pressure on the Zimbabwean Government to abandon its course of repression and to move towards early free and fair elections, which are the only real solution to the political crisis gripping the country.

That's my opening statement, and I'll be happy to respond to questions. I think Scott will -- we'll sort of do a division of responsibility here on human rights issues and on the booklet and on other policy questions.

QUESTION: To my knowledge, since the travel sanctions were imposed, with the exception of one trip to New York that you guys were forced to give him a visa for under the UN agreement, Mugabe has really only traveled to one place, and that was to Paris, at the invitation of President Chirac.

You talked a little bit about how you thought that these sanctions needed to be imposed uniformly and something else --

MR. BELLAMY: Rigorously and consistently.

QUESTION: -- rigorously applied, consistently. I know the Secretary has spoken about this up on the Hill, as have others. But, you know, specifically with France, what are you saying to them now, if you're still talking to France, considering the diatribe we had earlier?

MR. BELLAMY: We talked about Zimbabwe with France just yesterday, as a matter of fact, and what we said was that, to be effective, sanctions have to be consistently and rigorously applied, and we said at the time of the French Government's invitation to President Mugabe that we were disappointed in the French decision and that we didn't see a justification for it.

And we continue to feel, and we've told our French friends that the sanctions can work if they are systematically applied.

QUESTION: Yes, but has the French invitation and Mugabe's actual visit there destroyed the effectiveness of --

MR. BELLAMY: I don't think so, because my understanding is that the EU is in the process of renewing the EU travel ban for an additional year, so the EU travel sanctions will remain in force.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the only reason the EU is able to do that is because they gave the -- I mean, because they allowed the French to invite them.

MR. BELLAMY: I'm hoping they'll do better this year than -- next year than they did this year in enforcing them.

QUESTION: So you don't want to take a shot at the French, I guess?

QUESTION: The list of those affected by the asset freeze included, I believe, the wife of Mugabe and a sister. I'm wondering, is this just because of the familial connection or because of something that they were involved in? And B, what is the effect of these -- of an asset freeze? Do they have any known assets in this country?

MR. BELLAMY: The effect of an asset freeze will be to freeze any assets they have in this country and to prevent them from engaging in financial transactions of any kind with U.S. citizens. I cannot answer the question as to what assets may actually be -- they may actually have in the country. Frankly, I don't know. Treasury has the responsibility for actually enforcing this Executive Order and they are in the process of drawing up their procedures for doing that right now.

In terms of Mrs. Mugabe and others, persons -- I believe that all the persons included in this action in their own right are considered to be financial actors, if you will, in Zimbabwe, people who are not on the list by virtue of being a spouse or the relative of somebody else who is on the list.

QUESTION: I understand that several people on the -- several people that are on that list have children going to school in the States. What's the effect on them?

MR. BELLAMY: Well, the Executive Order obviously doesn't address the question of children in school in the States. But it does make it -- it does make it difficult if not prohibitive for them to conduct normal financial transactions in order to keep their children in school.

QUESTION: As in paying tuition?

MR. BELLAMY: Yes, that's correct.

QUESTION: So have you -- did you guys look into this at all, the effect that this would have? I don't know if it's a huge number of children that are involved.

MR. BELLAMY: We have in the past looked at this issue. We don't have a perfectly precise picture of the number of children studying in the United States. I don't think the number is very large, though. Our initial indications were that it was not a large number of dependants studying here.

QUESTION: We haven't heard much recently about the effects of the drought and about food supplies. Can we assume from that, that generally speaking, people are receiving enough food to keep them alive through this period, or what's going on on the ground, is what I really mean?

MR. BELLAMY: Our reports are that the food shortages continue to be severe, that the Zimbabwean population are working their way through towards the end of their coping mechanisms. That food is -- food aid is continuing to get into the country. So while there is severe malnutrition, severe hunger and possibly starvation in some areas, mass starvation has not occurred.

We do know that the forecasts for crop production this year are very grim -- as you would expect, very grim indeed. And that the crisis Zimbabwe is in is likely to be a continuing one. Zimbabwe is going to need continued and increased food aid through the next year. And a greater and greater percentage of that is going to be -- well, I say increased food aid. A greater percentage of what Zimbabweans are consuming is going to be food aid rather than food that the government is able to import.

QUESTION: Can you address the issue of or at least assess the level of cooperation by South Africa and its leadership in essentially squeezing Zimbabwe? Is it sufficient, as far as you're concerned?

MR. BELLAMY: South Africa has pursued, for the past two years what it has characterized as a policy of quiet diplomacy in an effort to ameliorate the situation in Zimbabwe. We have been in fairly close and continuous contact with South Africa over this time on the crisis in Zimbabwe. We continue to feel that South Africa does have influence and can -- can use that influence to shape events in Zimbabwe. And we would like South Africa to exercise that influence towards the objectives I mentioned earlier; that is, pressing the Zimbabwean Government more forcefully to end its policies of repression and pressing the -- and working towards early free and fair elections in that country.

QUESTION: And yet both they and the Nigerians are leading the call for the commonwealth suspension to be -- for the suspension to be suspended.

MR. BELLAMY: For the suspension to be suspended. We --

QUESTION: So, you know, I don't see how you -- you know, you talked to the French, you talked to the South Africans, presumably you talked to Nigerians, and they're all going the wrong way on this, from your point of view?

MR. BELLAMY: Several of the commonwealth members, I don't remember whether South Africa was part -- I think Nigeria was one of the members who offered the observation the other day that the situation in Zimbabwe appeared to be improving. We obviously strongly disagree.

QUESTION: The South African Foreign Minister?

MR. BELLAMY: And I think -- I know the Nigerians also noted that. Obviously, we have made clear to both the South Africans and the Nigerians that we don't agree with that analysis. We think the situation in Zimbabwe is worsening and, as I have just said, we believe now is not the time to lift the sanctions but rather to maintain firmness and consistency and rigor in applying those sanctions. That's obviously going to be a decision the commonwealth has to make, and I don't want to predict how it will come out, but I know that there are a range of different opinions within the commonwealth.

QUESTION: Short of your lobbying efforts, which thus far, with all due respect, don't seem to me particularly successful with the three countries, South Africa, Nigeria and France that we were just talking about, is the United States prepared to do anything else? I mean, what is there more that you can do unilaterally aside from the sanctions that -- I'm not suggesting regime change -- aside from the sanctions that the President put in place, are there other things that you guys are thinking about, are exploring?

MR. BELLAMY: I don't think it's fair to say we've been unsuccessful. We have maintained and extended our own sanctions. The EU has maintained its sanctions. There have been some lapses in the application of the sanctions. But it's important that those sanctions will go on for another year. The EU, largely because of controversy over the Zimbabwe issue, cancelled this year's EU-Africa summit. That would have been a second occasion for Robert Mugabe to go to Europe and he was denied that opportunity, obviously.

The commonwealth sanctions are being debated, but they are still in place and we are going to work to keep them in place. So I don't -- I don't think that we've done badly in that regard. The key over the coming year will be to keep the sanctions in place and to instill, I think, a new sense of urgency particularly on the part of Zimbabwe's neighbors, that the humanitarian crisis in the country is coming to a head, the pressures in Zimbabwe itself are building, and this is the time that we need to apply maximum pressure on the Government of Zimbabwe to abandon these repressive policies and to begin a process of liberalization leading to early free and fair elections.

QUESTION: Can you give us a sense at all about the opposition in the country and whether you think that the government -- if there's any instability, that could lead to the fall of the government in any way?

MR. BELLAMY: The opposition inside Zimbabwe takes many forms. There is the opposition front, the MDC, but there are labor unions, there are student groups, there are many elements of civil society, all of whom are subjected to fairly severe repression; and if you've noticed, political gatherings, political expression, political dissent in Zimbabwe is coming under increasingly quick and severe repression wherever it occurs.

Despite this, we believe that many Zimbabweans are continuing to hold on, and to maintain hope, and to struggle for a better future, and I think it's incumbent on all of us to give them hope and to give them support, without trying to pick what the future Government of Zimbabwe will be, without trying to choose sides in a future Zimbabwe, simply to support, broadly speaking, all those groups in Zimbabwe who form the democratic opposition.

QUESTION: Are you working with these groups through any kind of specific programs, maybe through NDI or IRI or any of those?

MR. BELLAMY: For many years, we've had relationships with many of these groups in Zimbabwe, going back to the 1980s and the 1990s, and we continue to maintain most of those relationships.

QUESTION: You said that there was some starvation, and I seem to recall -- in pockets in Zimbabwe -- I seem to recall at one stage there was a proposal for food drops with or without the approval of the Government of Zimbabwe.

What happened to that proposal? If there are these pockets of starvation, why have such food drops not taken place?

MR. BELLAMY: I don't know that there was ever a proposal, or certainly not a formal proposal, for the idea of food drops in Zimbabwe.

We have said on a number of occasions that it's important that the international community do everything possible to ensure that food aid is not politicized and that the food that we give to Zimbabwe is fairly distributed. The key to that is effective monitoring inside the country and effective action on the part of the donors and the embassies that are in Zimbabwe.

We've done a better job, I think, in the past three months of this monitoring, and although we continue to be concerned about reports of politicization of food aid or food aid being used for political purposes, we haven't had many reported incidents recently, and this is, perhaps, a positive trend.

Now, I should hasten to say that that covers the aid that we, the international community, give. We don't have good mechanisms for monitoring what the Zimbabwe Government does with the food that it brings in on its own.

QUESTION: Wasn't it, in fact, you that were pilloried by the Zimbabwean press for that suggestion about food drops?

MR. BELLAMY: No, I didn't specifically mention dropping food. I talked about the importance of doing everything we could to ensure that hungry people in Zimbabwe got food.

QUESTION: But they interpreted it, Mugabe and his --

MR. BELLAMY: As a threat of invasion -- yes.

QUESTION: Yes, exactly, that the US is preparing to -- within six months, the US is going to invade, and that's not on the table, right?

MR. BELLAMY: That's not on the table, not today.

QUESTION: Not today? But maybe -- no?

MR. BELLAMY: That's not on the table.

QUESTION: Okay. [End]

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