Sanctions lifted ... UK envoy Catriona Long and EU ambassador, Philippe Van Damme on Thursday

Says sanctions illegal and must be removed in full ... President Mugabe

THE European Union has lifted its 12-year suspension of direct financial aid to the government of Zimbabwe, imposed after allegations of rights abuses by President Robert Mugabe’s administration, an EU official announced on Thursday.

Mugabe has regularly demanded removal of the sanctions which he claims to be illegal and blames for the country's economic strife.

Officials however, said this is a major step towards the normalisation of ties but hastened to caution that the removal of the sanctions imposed in 2002 will not yield immediate results, citing the need to rebuild trust after years of frosty relations.

The bloc will, from 2015, start a 234 million Euro ($300 million) five-year funding programme to support health, agriculture and governance initiatives.

The EU move confirms a February decision by the 28-member bloc to resume direct aid to Harare, citing improvements in the political environment after the adoption of a new constitution and peaceful, if disputed polls, last year.

Apart from suspending direct aid, the EU also imposed travel restrictions and asset freezes on Mugabe, his family, political associates and senior government officials, but has eased these progressively since the veteran leader formed a power-sharing government with the opposition in 2009.

Mugabe, who retained full control of government after yet another disputed vote last year, and his wife are the only ones still subject to the travel ban, while a state-owned arms firm is also under an arms embargo.

The EU, which has remained a major donor to Zimbabwe, has channelled funds through non-governmental organisations and multi-lateral agencies, spending 1,5 billion euro ($2 billion) since 2002.

“We are most happy today to announce that the EU council confirmed this position and that appropriate measures will indeed effectively be lifted this weekend,” EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Philippe Van Damme, flanked by diplomats from 10 EU states, told journalists in Harare.

The ambassador said the travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe and his wife as well as the arms embargo on the country will be reviewed next February.

Van Damme dismissed claims that Zimbabwe had suffered under sanctions, adding that despite the measures, the country still enjoyed tariff and quota-free access to the EU markets under the Cotonou Agreement.

“We never had any trade sanctions vis-a-vis Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe always benefited from privileged access to European markets. I am stressing this because it is critically important to understand our relationship,” he said.

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Zambia Gets a White President After Sata’s Death

guy-scott-zambia-reportsWith the death of Zambia President Michael Sata on Tuesday, the African continent now gets something it hasn’t seen since the days of apartheid: a white president.

Guy Scott, who was Sata’s vice president, takes over the reins from his boss and close friend after Sata died in London while undergoing treatment for an unknown illness. Scott is the first white president in Africa since 1994, when South African President Frederik W. de Klerk lost to Nelson Mandela.

Since the Zambian constitution calls for a new election within 90 days and says a candidate’s parents must have been born in Zambia — Scott’s parents were born in the UK — it’s not clear whether he can run to keep the seat. Scott, 70, was born in 1944 in Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia, which became Zambia after the nation won its independence from Britain 50 years ago.

Of a population of 13 million people, there are only about 40,000 whites in Zambia, a land-locked country in southern Africa surrounded by Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. But The Telegraph describes the Cambridge-educated Scott as “genuinely popular,” whose choice as Sata’s deputy was not considered a surprise. Still, there were many Zambians who weren’t pleased by the idea that the country could possibly be led by a white man if the president died.

When Scott was agriculture minister in the 1990s, he is credited with rescuing the nation from a food crisis caused by drought.

“I don’t think Michael thought it was a racial thing, he just thought it was a good idea,” Scott told The Telegraph in 2012 about his selection as Sata’s deputy. “I’ve been involved in politics here for a long time. As a schoolboy I was involved in the liberation movement.”

“You see people’s jaws drop, they think there’s been a mistake with the seating plan or something,” he said, describing a common reaction to him. “A white Zambian but not representing white interests, that’s the point.”


About Nick Chiles

Nick Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author. He has written or co-written 12 books and won over a dozen major journalism awards during a journalism career that brought him to the Dallas Morning News, the Star-Ledger of New Jersey and New York Newsday, in addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief of Odyssey Couleur travel magazine.


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