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Sanctions aren’t always the answer: Robert Mugabe is using them to his advantage

Sanctions on Zimbabwe have become more of a helpful tool for Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party than a hindrance. And if this once-bountiful country is to turn a corner, the West should seriously consider suspending them.

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The removal of the Labour Party from power in the United Kingdom last month has opened the best opportunity in a decade to repair Britain’s relationship with Zimbabwe. But Britain has to act fast.

Zimbabwe – once one of the most beautiful and bountiful lands in Africa – all but collapsed in the 2000s under the brutally repressive regime of President Robert Mugabe. People lived in fear in a country where they once enjoyed political freedoms and decent public services and jobs. Thousands died of malnutrition and starvation. It was nearly another Darfur or Rwanda.

Today Zimbabwe is more stable than at any time since the 1990s. It is not yet out of the woods, far from it. But now may be the time for bold moves by the international community to help consolidate this progress and, hopefully, a final democratic transition.

The most constructive role Britain, the former colonial power, could play would be to encourage other major donors to Zimbabwe – namely the US, Canada, and leading European countries – to help lift sanctions against the country. Such a step would go a long way to repairing the icy relationship between Zimbabwe and Britain.

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