Britain keeps eye on Zimbabwe human rights

Abel Karowangoro

The Minister of State for Africa and Development in the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, has said.

Zimbabwe is one of 32 “Human Rights Priority Countries”.

This means the former colonial power continues to watch Zimbabwe in respect to meeting its international obligations, upholding the rule of law and safeguarding human rights.

Lord Ahmad, in written responses to Lord Oates in the House of Assembly this week, said the UK had engaged President Mnangagwa on this in May.

The UK also raised concerns on some legislation crafted in Harare.

He said: “The UK has engaged the Government of  Zimbabwe on draft legislation including the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill and amendments to the criminal code that, if passed into law, could be used to undermine the operating capacity of civil society, and to silence
and penalise critics of the state.”

Britain’s insistence on Zimbabwe’s human rights record is also a key factor on the southern African country’s readmission into the Commonwealth, something that the administration of President Mnangagwa has been keen on.

Lord Ahmad emphasised the need for tangible progress in addressing human rights issues, with emphasis on respecting fundamental freedoms, ensuring access to justice, and protecting the rights of all individuals, irrespective of their political affiliation.

On the other hand, how- ever, Britain is extending aid to Harare.

Lord Ahmad revealed: “The UK continues to support the most vulnerable people in Zimbabwe. This financial year, we are providing £74 million in official development assistance, focused on education and livelihoods, promoting health, supporting governance and human rights as well as climate resilience.”

Relations between Zimbabwe and Britain broke down two decades ago after the former embarked on the land reform programme.

Harare accuses Britain of instigating the Western world to impose punitive sanctions on the country, using accusations of human rights abuses as an excuse.

In recent times, tentative steps have been taken to normalise relations, but Britain blows hot and cold as it seeks to wring concessions from its ex colony, especially on huge issues such as land ownership and geopolitical support.

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