BY PETER MAKOSSAH
African presidents say the Western sanctions against Zimbabwe are hurting ordinary people and the entire continent and must be put to an end.
The African leaders are used the United Nations General Assembly held in New York, United States of America to push for an end to a two-decade-long Western embargo against Zimbabwe, arguing that the sanctions are hurting ordinary people and the region.
African Union (AU) Chairman and Senegalese President Macky Sall led the charge when he delivered his address at the UNGA 77th session in September, where he said the sanctions should be removed immediately to enable Zimbabwe to realise its full potential.
“The AU once again calls for the lifting of foreign sanctions against Zimbabwe,” President Sall said. “These harsh measures continue to inflict a sense of injustice against an entire people and aggravate their suffering in these times of deep crisis”, he lamented.
Mr Sall’s impassioned plea was echoed by leaders from Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and South Africa in their addresses to the UNGA summit.
DRC’s President Felix Tshisekedi, the current Chair of the Southern African Development Community, described the sanctions on Zimbabwe as “a crime against an innocent people.”
In his maiden UNGA address, Kenyan President William Ruto said, “unilateral coercive actions, such as those imposed on Zimbabwe and Cuba, apart from undermining the sovereign equality of nations, also indiscriminately punish the general citizenry, reserving their bitterest sting for innocent hustlers and the vulnerable.”
South Africa’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Naledi Pandor, representing President Cyril Ramaphosa, also condemned the actions on the two countries.
“South Africa calls for an end to the embargo against Cuba, which continues to impede the right to development of her people,” said Dr Pandor.
“In the same vein, we call for an end to unilateral coercive measures against Zimbabwe, which have compounded the problems experienced by the people of Zimbabwe” he concluded.
President Ramaphosa used his meeting with United States President Joe Biden in early September to call for an end to Washington’s sanctions against Zimbabwe, which he said were also negatively affecting neighbouring countries.
He said countries such as South Africa and Botswana were battling an influx of Zimbabwean immigrants running away from economic problems in their country, which he attributed to the sanctions.
In his address, Chairperson of the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, who is also the president of Malawi, called the West and rich countries to treat African countries with respect and dignity and never to leave anyone behind in as far as development is concerned.
“There is an urgent need for the West to treat Africa and all Least Developed Countries with a measure of equality, dignity and respect. Let no one be left behind,” said Chakwera.
He urged the rich countries and global financial lending institutions to cancel African countries’ debts.
Western countries, including the US, European Union member states, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, imposed different forms of targeted sanctions against the regime of the late Robert Mugabe following a disputed presidential election in 2002.
Mugabe’s regime was accused of human rights violations and electoral fraud, but Harare insisted it was being punished for a land reform programme that saw over 2000 white Zimbabweans losing their commercial farms without compensation.
The embargoes have remained in place nearly six years after Zimbabwe’s long-serving ruler was toppled in a military coup.
His successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is accused of failing to honour his promises to implement reforms that were set as a precondition for lifting the sanctions.
The US, EU and the UK maintain that the sanctions do not affect ordinary people as they are targeted at government officials that are linked to human rights abuses.
As a result of the sanctions imposed by the West on Zimbabwe during Robert Mugabe’s iron-fist rule, the Southern African nation, a former British colony and formerly known as Southern Rhodesia has had its economy down-spiralling and this forced a lot of its citizens to migrate overseas in search for better life following the draconian rule.
Nottingham is a host to a sizeable population to Zimbabwean migrants.
Patrice Musarurwa, businessperson, and owner of Braii King Delight located along Aspley Lane said, “it’s time the sanctions on Zimbabwe are lifted. If they want to keep the sanctions on, then they should restrict them only to the leaders and not the innocent people.”