U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols has said the southern African country must embark on genuine reforms if it wants Washington to remove sanctions against some of the country’s top officials. The ambassador spoke Wednesday after meeting with Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the State House in Harare.
The approximately hour-long meeting took place a week after U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act of 2018, also known as ZIDERA.
The act renewed sanctions the U.S. imposed on Zimbabwean individuals and companies starting in 2002, following accusations of human rights abuses and election rigging against then-president Robert Mugabe.
Current President Mnangagwa is among those targeted by the travel bans and financial restrictions.
When Mnangagwa came into power last November, he promised to normalize relations with the U.S. and with European countries that also imposed sanctions.
Nichols said Wednesday that the U.S. likes the reforms introduced since Mugabe’s ouster last November, but is troubled by the post-election violence seen August 1, when troops opened fire on demonstrators protesting a delay in presidential election results.
“President Mnangagwa’s commitment to a transparent investigation of those events is very, very important for my government,” Nichols said. “The violence of August 1st, the death of six people in the streets here, intimidation of the opposition polling agents, violence in the areas around Harare, have all been issues of concern.”
Mnangagwa eventually was declared the winner of the July 30 poll, but the opposition has filed a legal challenge in the Constitutional Court, saying the results are false and that opposition leader Nelson Chamisa was the actual victor.
Nichols said Wednesday he hopes the court will be impartial in its handling of the case.
Mnangagwa described the Wednesday meeting with Nichols as “very, very positive.”
“[Nichols] must have a correct appreciation of the environment in the country,” Mnangagwa said. “We were able to share his views and my views on the current situation in the country. And we are moving forward as a country and we want our people to be peaceful. Only when the country is peaceful and stable can development thrive, not when you are throwing stones at each other.”
When asked to comment on ZIDERA, the 75-year-old president laughed off the question before departing in a waiting car.
The Constitutional Court has about two weeks to rule on the opposition’s electoral petition.