US President Joe Biden has renewed sanctions against Zimbabwe, citing the country’s continued repression and its threat to peace and security in the region. The sanctions were first imposed in 2003 for alleged human rights violations and electoral fraud, and the European Union (EU) recently extended its own arms embargo against the country.
In a message to the US Congress dated March 1, 2023, Biden stated that Zimbabwe had not made any reforms that would warrant the lifting of the sanctions. He said that Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa had not made the necessary political and economic reforms, and that the country’s security services routinely intimidated and violently repressed citizens, including members of opposition political parties, union members, and journalists.
Biden’s decision comes after African leaders, including South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, called for the lifting of the sanctions. President Ramaphosa used a visit to Washington last year to push for the lifting of the sanctions, which he said were affecting Zimbabwe’s neighbors who host millions of economic refugees from the troubled country.
However, Biden stated that the actions of certain members of Mnangagwa’s government posed a threat to US foreign policy. “The actions and policies of certain members of the Zimbabwean government undermined Zimbabwe’s democratic process posing an unusual and extraordinary threat to the United States foreign policy,” he added.
Countries such as the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, as well as members of the EU, first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe at the turn of the millennium on allegations of human rights violations and electoral fraud. The United Kingdom also introduced its own set of sanctions against Zimbabwe after Brexit, targeting security chiefs accused of human rights violations.
International lenders such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund stopped giving loans to the country due to its failure to repay. Zimbabwe has been unable to secure financing from multilateral lenders for the past two decades due to its arrears and has been forced to rely on Chinese loans.
There was optimism that the sanctions would be eased after longtime ruler Robert Mugabe was toppled in a military coup. However, his 80-year-old successor is accused of intensifying repression and being reluctant to introduce needed economic reforms.