/ 22 December 2010

Zimbabwe Attorney General slapped with US sanctions

Zimbabwe Attorney General Slapped With Us Sanctions

The United States (US) on Tuesday imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe’s Attorney General — a top Robert Mugabe ally — for his alleged role in undermining the crisis-ridden African nation’s democracy.

The Treasury Department said Johannes Tomana’s “targeting of selected political opponents threatens the rule of law”, and a fragile power-sharing deal between the country’s rival powers.

The sanctions mean American citizens are prohibited from doing business with him and his US assets are frozen.

But they also point to further tensions between long-time President Robert Mugabe and his political foe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

In 2008, the two leaders entered into an uneasy power-sharing deal, following months of political turmoil over the outcome of a violence-marred presidential run-off.

The often testy relationship between the pair has been strained recently by tussles over government appointments, with Mugabe accused of routinely bypassing Tsvangirai when tapping officials for high office.

Last week, Mugabe stirred fresh conflict when he appointed ambassadors to the United Nations, the European Union and South Africa without consulting Tsvangirai, who heads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

US targets Mugabe
Tsvangirai has asked the United Nations and the European Union not to recognise the ambassadors named solely by Mugabe.

The United States stepped into the fray on Tuesday, questioning Tomana’s appointment, in a clear shot at Mugabe.

“Tomana’s appointment was made without consultation with MDC leaders and against the spirit of Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement signed on September 15, 2008,” the Treasury Department said.

Tomana has been in the post since December 2008, shortly after the power-sharing deal was reached, but before the unity government was sworn in.

The US government, along with European allies, have often criticised Mugabe for rights violations.

According to leaked US diplomatic cables, the United Nations had even offered Mugabe a retirement package and safe haven overseas in 2000 if he agreed to stand down.

Long time ahead for Mugabe
But 10 years on, Mugabe’s exit looks as unlikely as ever.

This month the 86-year-old was selected as his party’s candidate for presidential elections expected next year, pitting him once more against long-time foe Tsvangirai.

Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader, who has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980, was officially endorsed by Zanu-PF followers as their presidential candidate at the ruling party’s annual conference this week.

That could see Mugabe stay in office until well into his nineties if he wins a new ballot that for months he has insisted must take place next year because the deal with Tsvangirai — current prime minister — is not working.

But both men on Monday appeared to urge their supporters to shun violence ahead of the elections.

“What we would want to get to our people is our voice and our command that there should be no violence, but that does not mean that everybody will listen to us,” Mugabe said at a joint end-of-year news conference with Tsvangirai.

“Yes, there are incidences of violence and we have witnessed it and we are committed as leaders to ensure that the next election is certainly not characterised by a culture of violence,” said Tsvangirai.

“That demon must be ostracised, it is a demon that no-one wants,” he added. — Sapa-AFP