Ugandan president, Dr Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has joined a bandwagon of African leaders calling for sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe to be lifted.
Zimbabwe has been reeling under sanctions imposed by United States of America since 2001 meant to punish erstwhile President Robert Mugabe’s government for gross human rights abuses and in response to the controversial land reform programme.
The sanctions were renewed by US President Donald Trump following the in post-electoral violence that claimed seven lives after soldiers opened fire on civilians in August last year.
The visiting statesman also called for more regional cooperation in Africa, saying there was a need for African countries to improve their partnerships and assist each other in dealing with developmental challenges.
Officiating at the 60th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo Friday, the Ugandan leader said the first world should not use sanctions as a way of punishing ‘bad’ African leaders.
“On behalf of Uganda, I want to condemn the sanctions which have been in Zimbabwe for a long time. This idea of sanctions is cowardice,” Museveni said.
He noted that if the super powers were unhappy with Zimbabwean leaders, they should let the leaders fail on their own volition, lest they used sanctions as an excuse.
“Why do you put sanctions, if someone is wrong leave him, he will fail by his own mistakes, if you know you are right and somebody is wrong that means that you are not sure that the man is wrong, otherwise if you are sure the man is wrong why don’t you let him fail by his own mistakes. Somebody will say I will fail because of so and so when you put sanctions. Therefore I would appeal to those who put sanctions in Zimbabwe to lift those sanctions (sic),” he said.
Dr Museveni added that imposing sanctions was unproductive and unfair as there were other means to deal with leaders, adding that global leaders themselves resorted to talks whenever they had problems with each other.
“In the 1950s and 1960s there was a dangerous confrontation between the East and West but at some stage those met and decided to work on what they called peaceful competition.”
However, the Ugandan leader who has ruled his country for 33 years, claimed Africa was at fault for not focusing on an African developmental agenda and pushing for regional cooperation.
“It is also the fault of Africa because we don’t work together very closely. If we were working closely and if somebody put sanctions on one of us, we will impose counter sanctions on them. This is what China does when it is hit by sanctions, it counter imposes sanctions to the other one and that balances the equation,” he said.
“But here the equation is not balanced. I don’t agree with those who say Africa is too weak to act. Together in the 1960s we were much weaker than we are today but we were able to work together and support the freedom of southern Africa (the liberation movements in Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and Guinea Bissau.) We had the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) [referred to now as the African Union], which united our position.”
Dr Museveni urged Zimbabwe to remain steadfast and would overcome its challenges.
“In 1989 Uganda resurrected after facing challenges in 1986 when there was no sugar, no soap or sodas. The population had no essential items and these were smuggled into the country from Kenya or from other countries but now Uganda is much better. It is listed as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. I therefore encourage remain steadfast challenges faced here you will prevail,” he said.
“Uganda is a country that has recovered, Zimbabwe is rich and has many minerals, some used especially for military industries. I would like us to work together in developing this big potential of Zimbabwe.”
The Ugandan leader also noted that trade between countries was necessary but emphasised that African countries must prioritise value addition of goods before they exported them.
“We cannot develop without trade, it is the stimulus of wealth creation. In eastern Africa, we are developing a rail system that will pass through Kenya and Tanzania therefore it will be easy to access our products from Dar Es Salam to the port in Mombasa,” Dr Museveni said.
He added that exporting raw materials was not profitable as the importer usually the Western countries benefitted more in terms of profit and job creation.
The 2019 edition of ZITF is the second showcase the Ugandan leader has officiated in, as he did so in 1989.