Thursday, March 19, 2009

Denmark to revive ties with Zimbabwe

March 17, 2009
By Raymond Maingire

HARARE – Denmark has moved to resuscitate relations with Zimbabwe after closing its embassy in Harare and freezing development aid in response to the disputed re-election of President Robert Mugabe seven years ago.
Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Ula Toernas is in Zimbabwe on a brief official visit to assess the country’s dire humanitarian situation as well as prescribe possible ways to mitigate the crisis.
Toernas told journalists Tuesday her visit was also intended to renew her country’s lost ties with Zimbabwe which collapsed in 2002.
She said Denmark was encouraged by the recent formation of an all inclusive government by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The deal prescribed a roadmap to end a decade-long political and economic crisis which has spawned massive starvation and pushed 94 percent of the population out of formal employment.
Toernas described the unity government as a very important step towards resuscitating her country’s broken ties with Zimbabwe.
“You agreed within the political parties to form the government and you also agreed on a road map on how to fulfill the global political agreement,” she said.
“I see this as a very important step forward and as a new opportunity for Zimbabwe to open up.”
On Tuesday afternoon the Danish minister met acting Prime Minister Thokozani Khuphe who described her visit as a sign of satisfaction by the international community the unity government was operational.
“This is a good sign to show that the inclusive government is working very well,” she said to journalists.
“People out there have realised that this inclusive government is genuine and we would like to move the country forward.
“They (Denmark) have demonstrated to us that they are willing partners and that they have discovered that Zimbabwe is a changed country now.”

Toernas will on Thursday also meet Finance minister, Tendai Biti as well as Lands and Rural Resettlement minister, Herbert Murerwa.
The Danish government abruptly closed its embassy in Harare in 2002 and froze all development aid to the country which in 2001 was estimated at 120 million crowns, then a generous Z$14 million.
This was in reaction to the disputed re-election of President Mugabe in 2002 who beat his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC by more than 400 000 votes.
Denmark cited alleged electoral fraud coupled with violence which left more than 100 mostly MDC supporters brutalized by Zanu-PF followers and war veterans, hitherto a militant support base for the 85-year-old leader.
This was followed by the imposition of a travel ban to EU countries on Mugabe and more than 200 government and Zanu-PF officials.
The EU also accused Mugabe of blocking the deployment of its election observation mission which Mugabe accused of being biased against his party.
The European Union in January this year further tightened its sanctions on Mugabe and his sympathisers, freezing the assets of their companies based in British tax havens for the first time.
The rich bloc accused government of being directly responsible for the suffering of Zimbabweans in which more than 4 000 people have died of the cholera epidemic in less than eight months while more than 91 000 have been affected.
The EU also cited alleged human rights violations by government which had culminated in the abduction and detention of dozens of human rights and MDC activists.
Early last month, the European Union said it would not immediately lift sanctions against Zimbabwe until the new unity government fully complies with the terms of a power-sharing deal.
But Mugabe, who pleaded with his old rivals in the MDC to vigorously campaign against sanctions, prayed other less radical EU countries would not wait for an official declaration by the EU to renew their relationship with Zimbabwe.

“There are other ways also we can pursue,” he said, “diplomatic relations with other countries, some of the countries in the European Union which will want to have relations with us.
“And if they can start breaching those sanctions and cooperating with us in our economic field that would lead to the sanctions being undermined and eventually getting lifted.”

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