Zimbabwe’s President Emerson Mnangagwa and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta this week toasted new agreements and newfound closer diplomatic ties between their countries.
The two presidents signed seven letters of intent for diplomatic consultations; tourism and nature conservation; and investigations into civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents. Others dealt with women’s empowerment and community development; youth affairs; cooperatives; and sports and leisure activities
But under cover of the government discussions, the Zimbabwean leader was in Nairobi on much more important matters, like lobbying for Kenya – a member of the UN Security Council – to counter crippling international sanctions on Harare and the question that Kenya is a safe haven for opposition politicians in Zimbabwe.
At home, the president has been accused of political arbitrariness, and this trip to Kenya was also intended to address “emerging threats” to the region. But while he was speaking in Nairobi, Zimbabwe was being debated in the British Parliament over political violence.
Opposition in the Crosshairs
Lord Jonny Oates, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Zimbabwe, called on the UK government and the international community in general to hold Zimbabwe accountable. Of concern is the future of the opposition leaders of the Citizen Coalition for Change, led by Constantino Chiwenga, whose rallies have recently been brutally dispersed.
sources have said The East African that President Mnangagwa’s trip to Nairobi was to obtain assurances that Zimbabwean opposition groups would receive no subtle aid from Kenya. One man in the President’s crosshairs is Prof Jonathan Moyo, a political scientist and former ruling party strategist who has lived in Nairobi since the fall of Robert Mugabe’s regime in 2017.
Sources in Harare said The East African that President Mnangagwa has requested Prof Moyo’s extradition, but since Nairobi and Harare do not have an extradition treaty, the newly signed memorandum of understanding on political consultations is seen as the first step towards regulation.
Prof Moyo, a Mugabe loyalist, is accused of various crimes committed while he was Minister of Information.
President Mnangagwa is concerned about the alleged hand of Moyo in recent public protests, which were violently put down by police.
Zimbabwe had previously tried to extradite Prof Moyo on charges of fraud, but Kenya denied the request.
Prof Moyo is married to a Kenyan and has told the Kenyan authorities that his life would be in danger if he returned home.
Fears for Prof Moyo’s safety increased last year when suspected Zimbabwean state security officers took a photo of him walking around his hideout in Kenya and shared it on social media.
In another incident, they allegedly called him on his mobile phone while he was speaking at a meeting at a Nairobi hotel and told him they knew his whereabouts.
The home of popular cleric Walter Magaya, who visited Kenya last month, was raided by the army and police at his home in Harare, allegedly looking for illegal firearms.
Government insiders claimed they suspected Mr Magaya had met with Prof Moyo to plot a plot against the government. The government has repeatedly accused him of overthrowing the ruling Zanu-PF party.
Zimbabwe is fighting for the lifting of economic sanctions and the arms embargo. Earlier this year, Harare had received a joint statement from the African Union in support of lifting sanctions.
At a joint press conference at the State House in Nairobi on Wednesday, President Kenyatta called the sanctions illegal and assured Zimbabwe of Kenya’s continued advocacy and support for their lifting. He also cited them as sources of “unreasonable troubles, troubles and annoyances for the people of Zimbabwe”.
“And we believe that is unfair because this hardship was artificially created and we continue to call on the international community to lift these unlawful sanctions,” said President Kenyatta.
“My visit to Kenya serves to consolidate our ties by refocusing cooperation to increase bilateral trade, investment, tourism, transport, science and technology, and innovation among other aspects such as defense and security issues,” President said Mnangawa at the press conference.
Western countries first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 after Mugabe won a disputed presidential election.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the EU and the US cited gross human rights abuses, voter fraud and corruption for the embargoes on Harare.
Two decades later, the EU and US still have active embargoes against Zimbabwe, while Britain introduced its own targeted restrictive measures against the country’s security chiefs after leaving the EU last year.
The US, which maintains the toughest targeted sanctions against government officials and business corporations in Zimbabwe, renewed its embargo nearly two weeks ago, citing escalating human rights abuses and draconian legislation introduced by President Mnangagwa’s government.
Molly Mphee, the US State Department’s assistant secretary for African affairs, said last week that successive US administrations have renewed sanctions against Zimbabwe because “targeted members of the ruling elite continue to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions, commit human rights abuses in the related to oppression and engage in corruption.”
“Unfortunately, this year is no different,” Ambassador Phee said in a letter explaining the rationale behind the extension of sanctions against Zimbabwe.
On March 3, President Joe Biden extended the sanctions for another year. But Zimbabwe blames the sanctions for its protracted economic crisis, which has left one of southern Africa’s strongest economies a shadow of itself.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube claimed Zimbabwe’s economy had lost $42 billion as a result of the sanctions.
“The over $42 billion we’ve lost since 2002 is almost double our economy, which is at $25 billion, that’s a huge margin and people need to see the impact of such a loss,” said Prof .Ncube.
The current US sanctions regime includes 83 individuals and 37 entities designated under the Zimbabwe sanctions program. Washington says it has nothing to do with Zimbabwe’s economic woes.
Renewing its sanctions package last month, the EU said: “The measures in place are well targeted and very limited, therefore they have no impact on the people of Zimbabwe, their economy, foreign direct investment or trade.
“Zimbabwe continues to benefit from duty-free and quota-free access for its exports to the EU amid ongoing negotiations to deepen the Economic Partnership Agreement for East and Southern Africa,” the EU added.