Illegal sanctions: Reflecting on 20 years of pain

by | Dec 27, 2021 | International, Politics | 0 comments


Hosia Mviringi

This month of December 2021, Zimbabwe commemorates twenty solid year’s after the enactment of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) by the passage by the United States of America in 2001.

The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, otherwise known as the UN Charter of 1945/48 forms that basis for all national statutes in member countries which voluntarily become members of the world body.

All member countries, upon becoming members are obligated to adopt and domesticate the Charter as a template for national Bills of rights.

Article 1 of the Charter emphasises on one objective of the UN Charter that is “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion”.

According to the Charter, all members of the UN undertake to among other things, ‘ maintain international peace and security develop friendly relations among nations, to co-operate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights, and to be a centre for harmonising the actions of nations’.

This year’s festive season marks exactly two decades of Unilateral US Economic Sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe in 2001.

The major driver of the interstate aggression was US misgivings on Zimbabwe’s model of land reforms which forcibly dispossessed a minority white community in favour of equitable balance of land ownership.

The Zimbabwean model, as was feared then, is still feared would spread its influence into other former colonies in Southern Africa and beyond.

Looking back at the events of 2001 in the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, one wonders if the result has been worthy of the means.

For children born in Zimbabwe in 2001, now due for university, they may have never seen their country fulfilling its potential.

The country has tried to rise economically  but the economic yoke of economic sanctions on many occassions stands in the way of progress.

The generation has suffered a grand violation of rights as enshrined in the UN Charter Article 26  which explicitly states that;
“Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”.

Zimbabwe has struggled to provide for the basic human rights needs for its people including health and social protection.

However, it has taken the UN community 20 years to realise and admit that indeed the US sanctions regime against Zimbabwe has been and continues to be in violation of the UN Charter on Human Rights.

Ms Alena Douhan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the unilateral coercive measures, who visited Harare between October 10 – 28, 2021, concluded that sanctions that we’re placed on Zimbabwe were illegal as they did not pass the United Nations standards of collective consensus.

In an end off mission report, Ms Douhan concluded that the US Unilateral sanctions were a violation and an impediment to the full enjoyment of human rights by the people of Zimbabwe and thus should be removed.

Testifying and lobbying before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, then in 2001, US Assistant Secretary of State  for Africa, Mr Chester Crocker advocated for a total annihilation of the Zimbabwean economy as a way to set Zimbabweans against ZANU PF and force an unlawful regime change in Harare.

“To separate the people of Zimbabwe from ZANU PF, we are going to have to make their economy scream, and I hope you, Senators, have the stomach for what you have to do,” said Mr Crocker then.

Important to note is the primary purpose of sanctions on the people of Zimbabwe.

Sanctions were designed to whip Zimbabweans into a certain line of political thinking, which would have seen a mass exodus of support from ZANU PF towards a certain political formation.

This was done in blatant violation of the UN Charter’s Article 20 (1) and (2) which state that;
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Yet here Mr Crocker is pushing an unlawful sanctions strategy meant to force Zimbabweans to support a certain political association in form of the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC).

Of course the people of Zimbabwe have screamed for two decades under the yoke of sanctions, ostensibly for refusing to turn against ZANU PF, either at the polls or on the streets, and to embrace the US preferred formation of the MDC.

The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 bars International Finance Institutions (IFI’s) from extending credit lines and corresponding banking services to Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has been effectively cut off from the world economic ecosystem for two decades now, and still counting.

International and bilateral loans could be what Zimbabwe needs to restart it’s economy and boost it’s ability to meet it’s obligations under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

Zimbabwe needs to trade freely with the rest of the world without the burdensome country risk arising from the sanctions tag.

The country’s ability to deliver on such SDGs obligations as universal access to basic education, health and social services has been consistently threatened for 20 years.

All persons in Zimbabwe in spite of political, religious and cultural inclinations have suffered gross deprivation and violation of their primary rights and civil liberties as a result of sanctions.

The US touts itself as the paragon of human rights, a pretext they have used to forcibly and unilaterally intervene in other countries, militarily and otherwise. Yet here in Zimbabwe they have trashed the Universal Declaration of Rights without consequence.

Lest the people of Zimbabwe be distracted from the purpose of sanctions on the country, focus should be on the 20 year generation which has been primed to view ZANU PF as the enemy of the people.

This has been a deliberate and sustained strategy which is tantamount to a social experiment that is intended to achieve desired social conditioning outcomes.

As Zimbabwe commemorates 20 years of US economic sanctions, it is thus important to keep the eyes on the ball and admit that sanctions may never be lifted until the goal “to separate the people of Zimbabwe from ZANU PF” has been attained.

Their hatred for Zanu PF, stems from their land reform anger.

What is about an economically emancipated Zimbabwe, that scares the West?

This should rally the nation to pull in the same direction in order to defeat the purpose of sanctions that goes against the aspirations of a people.

There is nothing wrong about reposessing that which belongs to you, Zimbabwe must not apologise for taking its land back.