Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa says he will attend COP26, becoming the first Zimbabwe leader to visit the United Kingdom since Zimbabwe was accused of human rights abuses and election rigging. Mnangagwa also said a U.N. rapporteur had proved his government was right about the sanctions issue.
Winding up an annual conference of the ruling ZANU-PF party Saturday in Bindura, 80 kilometers north of Zimbabwe’s capital, Mnangagwa said he was looking forward to attending the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, in Scotland, which begins Sunday.
“I wish to inform the conference that tomorrow morning (Sunday) I travel to Glasgow, United Kingdom, after over two decades have passed without Zimbabwe leadership going to United Kingdom. I have been invited by [British Prime Minister] Boris Johnson, and [he] has indicated he might meet me; one on one, as well as other leaders like India prime minister and others, we are meeting them,” he said.
Mnangagwa also said he was happy about a report by U.N. Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan after a two-week visit to Zimbabwe. The Belarus national urged the U.S. and other Western governments to lift sanctions they imposed on Zimbabwe nearly two decades ago and for alleged election-rigging and human rights abuses.
“We as government, we as ZANU-PF, have been vindicated by the report released by the United Nations special rapporteur. We should congratulate ourselves. We have never been wrong, and we shall continue always being right. Those who have been found outside the law should reckon their position,” Mnangagwa said.
But in an audio statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Harare, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said sanctions on Zimbabwe’s leadership were not hurting ordinary citizens.
“Our sanctions target individuals and institutions that are committing human rights violations. And we make every effort to ensure those sanctions do not impact the people. What is happening in Zimbabwe is a result of bad policies in Zimbabwe. What is happening in Zimbabwe is a consequence of their leadership. It is not a consequence of our sanctions, and we will always resist any criticism that says our sanctions are impacting people unfairly. We are criticized by the government [of Zimbabwe] for these actions because they know they are responsible for these actions. I regret that the special rapporteur decided to put this in [her] report,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
The European Union imposed travel and financial sanctions on then-Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and his allies in 2002, in response to reports of election-rigging and human rights. The U.S. followed suit with sanctions in 2003.
Earlier this week, in separate statements, the U.S., Britain and the European Union said Zimbabwe’s economy was suffering, not because of sanctions but because of corruption and government mismanagement of the country’s resources.