Will the Biden presidency improve US-Zim relations?

With the United States president-elect, Joe Biden, set to be inaugurated Wednesday, taking over from the incumbent Donald Trump, it remains to be seen if his presidency would in any way improve the US-Zimbabwe relations which soured over the past two decades.

Relations between the two nations became frosty in 2002 when the global super power slapped Zimbabwe with economic sanctions citing massive human rights violations in the 2000 land reform exercise.

The George Bush, Barack Obama and of late the Donald Trump administrations have always been at loggerheads with the Zimbabwean government.

Both Robert Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa regimes have also been accusing the US of interference in the country’s domestic affairs.

Successive US ambassadors to Zimbabwe including the current, Brian Nichols have been critical of the government’s human rights abuses, corruption, economic mismanagement and other vices.

However, ZANU-PF, has expressed hope that the coming in of the new US president would pave way for the betterment of the US-Zimbabwe relations culminating into the lifting of the sanctions imposed on the Southern African country.

In a statement, last week ZANU-PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo, said Zimbabwe was keen to work with Biden in pursuit of matters of mutual interest for the people from both countries.

But political analyst, Methuseli Moyo, said the change of administration in Washington would not automatically translate into the improvement of relations with Harare.

“I think what has to change for Zim-US relations to change is not just the change of leaders for either or both countries, but a change of what the US calls lack of democracy and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe,” Moyo told CITE.

“On its part, if the Zim govt wants a change of attitude from the US, there is a need for an open, formal engagement to agree on what can be changed, otherwise Biden might be ‘worse’ than Trump and others before him.”

Asked whether sanctions could be lifted during Biden’ term as anticipated by ZANU-PF, Moyo said: “Four years is a long time in politics.  A lot might change. But the trick is on Harare ‘correcting’ what Washington is not happy about.”

He was however quick to say, the coming in of Biden, a Democrat, presents an opportunity for further engagements between the US and Zimbabwe and the entire African continent.

“A new US president from a different political formation presents an opportunity to reshape things,” he said.

“It is up to Africa to organise and standardise its political conduct first, and then bargain as a group, otherwise others will flow with the US and others will continue to be isolated.”

 Fortune Mlalazi, a public administrator, said the coming in of Biden would provide Zimbabwe with an opportunity to further engage the US.

“The Democrats are engaging; they always engage,” said Mlalazi.

“So what I foresee happening in the Zim-US relations is that there is going to be more engagement in terms of trying to find solutions.”

He said he did not foresee sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe getting lifted anytime soon.

“The issue is not about the new administration per se but it is about Zimbabwe doing what is right in terms of human rights violations,” he said.

“If the Zimbabwean government could deal with the issues of human rights violations we will see the relations improving and the issues of sanctions probably going away but from the look of things it is unlikely because the Zimbabwean government is unwilling to deal with the issues of human rights. So, it’s unlikely.”

Mlalazi said no major changes should be expected in the US’s relations with African countries.

“Particular countries that have always enjoyed a good relationship with the US government will continue doing so,” he said.

“A few countries are likely to fall out of favour with the new administration especially in terms of human rights for example, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda are likely to fall into that category of countries that are likely to fall out of favour with the new administration.”

He added: “Countries such as South Africa, Botswana and Malawi are likely to enjoy a very good relationship with the new administration.”

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