International

Activists Rail Against Zimbabwe Sanctions

As an already beleaguered Zimbabwe reels from the effects of a recent natural disaster, a group of Pan-Africanists announced Wednesday their challenge to longstanding U.S. economic sanctions they say have spawned a humanitarian crisis in the southeastern African nation.

On May 25, what’s known as African Liberation Day, members of December 12th Movement, Friends of Zimbabwe and other organizations will march from the African-American Civil War Memorial on U Street to the White House as part of their appeal to President Donald Trump (R) and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to revisit their stances on Zimbabwe.

“We’re asking the Congressional Black Caucus to invite people from the Zimbabwean government to reevaluate the sanctions, and understand that the most recent election was verified all around the world, except in the west,” said Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement, a New York-based Black human rights organization, during a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the African-American Civil War Memorial.

Clay, surrounded by his December 12th Movement colleagues Roger Wareham and Youth Division Leader Iman Essiet, and Salim Adofo of the National Black United Front’s D.C. chapter, challenged Black elected officials to follow in the footsteps of late Reps. Ron Dellums and Charles Diggs in their advocacy for Africans abroad.

“We want to make clear that we stand with the Zimbabwean people and their resistance to the imposition of intimidation,” Clay said. “The CBC doesn’t know how insidious sanctions are. They come with things you don’t think of, like the [denial] of medical supplies.”

Despite pleas from Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Trump extended sanctions against Zimbabwe by a year in March, citing concern for its threat against U.S. foreign policy. CBC members, as had been in the case with other executives, supported the prolongment.

The U.S. economic sanctions against Zimbabwe have been in effect since the early 2000s. More than 141 individuals and entities, including Mnangagwa, former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, and ruling ZANU-PF party, have been targeted. Opponents say the sanctions are responsible for expanding Zimbabwe’s external debt, causing medical supply shortages and increasing the prevalence of cholera and diabetes — especially in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.

A spokesperson for CBC Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.) didn’t reply to The Informer’s inquiry about whether Bass, who also chairs the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, would allow Zimbabwean officials to testify before U.S. lawmakers about the on-the-ground effects of the sanctions.

During the May 15 press conference, Iman Essiet characterized the aforementioned outcomes as retaliation for Zimbabwe exerting its independence.

“The Zimbabwean people dared to liberate the masses and take back their land,” Essiet said. “[That’s why] the United States wants to impose immoral sanctions.

“Medical supplies aren’t allowed, and the economy has been attacked,” she said. “The youth are turning to drugs to suppress their depression. We must take a stand to lift the immoral sanctions. Zimbabwe has a right to be self-determined.”

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