A three member European Union delegation arrived in Zimbabwe on the 29th April for the first time in 10 years. The visit concluded on May 3rd and talks were held with the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development and the Ministry of Energy and Power Development among others.
Among the members of the delegation were politicians for Poland, Germany and Holland. They discussed current existing development assistance programs while gathering information on the development needs of Zimbabwe and the priorities of the Government of Zimbabwe. A specific focus was on food security, health, agriculture and sustainable energy.
The African country has found itself on the outer when it comes to diplomatic relations due to its poor track record on human rights abuses and election fraud. It is still under sanction from the United Nations for its role in assumed and proven involvement in the illegal trade of high value commodities, including diamonds. However, last year the European Union eased sanctions to recognize progress made by Zimbabwe, and in February this year further suspended measures, freeing themselves up to engage in constructive dialogue. The latest visit is an extension of their current re-engagement drive.
Washington has also found itself re-evaluating its stance on Zimbabwe. A few days after Ambassador Young visited Zimbabwe, the US lifted restrictions on two of Zimbabwe's banks: the Agricultural Development Bank and the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe. The US has admitted it erred in its initial handling of Zimbabwe and wants to engage in constructive dialogue. Washington has confirmed another visit before elections are held in June, this time by Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Analysts are skeptical and believe the visit is more likely due to Prime Minister Morgen Tsvangirai's likely loss at the elections. The US have been vocal supporters of the Prime Minister and his loss means a loss of influence in the region. It's clear the visit has been carefully timed to avoid any overtures of support for Tsvangarai's opponents, should they win.
The US are sending people with a history of fighting oppression in America, in the hope they will find sympathy with the former British colony. Mr Young has a history of fighting for the advancement of African Americans and Reverend Jackson is a well known civil rights campaigner. Reverend Jackson also met with President Mugabe during last year's UN General Assembly. He and a group of businessmen discussed business opportunities in Zimbabwe.
While re-engagement is an important part of Zimbabwe's rebuilding, the loss of its only opposition is not. Morgen Tsvangarai is traveling the region to shore up support from neighboring African nations. He has also urged the Government to postpone elections so that vital reforms can be put in place. Regardless of who visits, this is unlikely to take place.