WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Africa subcommittee, today joined BBC News to discuss the current situation in Zimbabwe.

“The economy is in shambles, there have been violations of human rights, and ways in which democracy has been thwarted since the 2008 election that Mugabe lost, but somehow maneuvered to be able to remain as president. I am hopeful that there will be a peaceful transition of power. Mugabe has resigned and has called for a peaceful transition, but this will be up to the people of Zimbabwe, and regional leaders from SADC and the African Union to insist on an inclusive and an open process. My hopes are that the transition will respect the rule of law and will lead to an open and inclusive election in which there will be a democratic process to choose the future leadership of Zimbabwe that can reform the economy and repair the health of the country.”

Audio and video available here

Excerpts from the interview:

Senator Coons on Mugabe: Well, this is an historic moment for the people of Zimbabwe. As you've mentioned, for 37 years, Robert Mugabe has been a president who was initially a liberator, but gradually became a dictator. The economy is in shambles, there have been violations of human rights, and ways in which democracy has been thwarted since the 2008 election that Mugabe lost, but somehow maneuvered to be able to remain as president. I am hopeful that there will be a peaceful transition of power. Mugabe has resigned and has called for a peaceful transition, but this will be up to the people of Zimbabwe, and regional leaders from SADC and the African Union to insist on an inclusive and an open process. My hopes are that the transition will respect the rule of law and will lead to an open and inclusive election in which there will be a democratic process to choose the future leadership of Zimbabwe that can reform the economy and repair the health of the country.

 

More on Zimbabwe: Well, the United States, as you know, has imposed fairly strong sanctions against Zimbabwe many years ago against both Robert Mugabe and some of his inner circle of advisors as well as impacting the country as a whole. The United States continues to provide significant amounts of humanitarian relief because of the famine, the drought, excuse me, throughout Zimbabwe. But, we do not provide any direct government-to-government assistance. If the new government of Zimbabwe presents itself as being more transparent and more open to reform, the United States could consider lifting some or all of those sanctions. We could be a strong partner with Zimbabwe for its future development, along with our vital ally, the United Kingdom, and others throughout Europe and the world, we could create the environment for significant improvement in Zimbabwe's economy, as long as there is respect for human rights and a sort of transparency and democracy that has been lacking for the last 37 years.

More on Zimbabwe: My hope is that the transition will be one that will allow for more openness. It seems likely that Emmerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in as the new president and that Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, who was the winner of the '08 election will play some role. It is my hope that these gentleman and others will view the transition as an opportunity to establish new standards for conduct, for rule of law, and for openness to engagement with the west, in particular the United States and UK.

More on Zimbabwe: Yes, I'm very concerned about the lack of an active, forward-leaning presence by the United States. I think the last American delegation to visit Zimbabwe was led by my friend, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, he and I and two other senators and a congressman, visited southern Africa in February of 2016 - we actually met with Robert Mugabe, a truly memorable, troubling long meeting, and I share your expressed concern. They think that China has a significant foothold in Zimbabwe, they trained many of the liberation struggle leaders, and they have a strong economic presence. China and the United States have a different approach to engagement in Africa. They do not advocate for democracy and free press and human rights and, instead, are much more interested in economic relationships. I think it is long past time for China to stand up for international standards in terms of how we conduct business across Africa, and for the people of countries like Zimbabwe to have a voice in the future of their nation.

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