Through an executive order this week, President Obama extended sanctions against key Zimbabwean officials, including President Robert Mugabe for an additional year. President Bush first issued sanctions against Zimbabwean politicians in March 2003. They were renewed in 2005 and again in 2008.
A statement from the White House noted that actions taken by key Zimbabwean officials constituted, “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States,” and thus warrant sanctions in accordance with the National Emergencies Act.
This decision is a welcome move by the Obama administration to emphasize the rampant corruption of Robert Mugabe and members of his party, the ZANU-PF. Such U.S. action draws attention to the grim state of affairs in Zimbabwe, and demonstrates to officials in the region that real change needs to come to Zimbabwe.
Mugabe’s exceedingly reluctant and half-hearted entry into a unity government does not constitute a get out of jail free card. The compromise government continues to face immense challenges, and there are few signs that Mugabe intends to take power-sharing seriously. The United States and its regional partners must work to bring about a legitimate political transition while ensuring that Zimbabwe’s people receive urgent humanitarian assistance — which Mugabe has often blocked for all but his political loyalists.