The United States reacted coolly to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s overture for better ties, saying he should end political arrests and media censorship and honour a power-sharing deal.
Mugabe, long a pariah in the West for his authoritarian rule and economic mismanagement, said he was open to “fresh, friendly and cooperative relations with all those countries that have been hostile to us.”
“We encourage Mugabe to show his commitment to positive relations with the US by fully implementing the global political agreement which he signed in September 2008,” State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly said, referring to a deal Mugabe signed to share power with opposition rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
The State Department spokesperson urged Mugabe to end “politicized arrests and prosecutions and often violent land seizures” as well as to replace what he described as Zimbabwe’s “corrupt attorney general and reserve bank governor.”
Kelly also called on Mugabe, who has ruled since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980, to repeal “emergency decrees and draconian laws restricting personal freedoms” and to commit to drafting a new constitution and to holding elections under international supervision.
“What we would like to see is some real concrete action,” Kelly told reporters.
Mugabe has accused his Western foes of ruining the economy through sanctions in retaliation for a policy of seizing white-owned farms for landless blacks. Those countries say the sanctions only target him and close associates.
After long negotiations, Mugabe formed a unity government with Tsvangirai, who is now prime minister, in February to try to end a decade-long political crisis.
The fragile coalition between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change is threatened by policy differences, the slow pace of reforms and feuding over state jobs.
Foreign aid donors and investors remain reluctant to put money into Zimbabwe until further progress has been made towards democratic reforms.
Pic: President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe