PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s hopes for improved relations between his government and United States President Donald Trump’s administration suffered a blow yesterday after visiting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Carol O’Connel, demanded a raft of political and economic reforms ahead of next year’s general elections.
“The relationship with the Zimbabwean government is part of the reason why I am here,” she said.
“We are not trying to vet specific individuals from Zimbabwe, but we are looking to the Zimbabwean leadership and government to make certain political and economic changes so that we can work robustly,” the US diplomat said.
O’Connel said, during her visit, she had met with government officials and political leaders, where she expressed concern over the deteriorating human rights situation and political tension in the country ahead of elections next year.
“We have been meeting with government and other leaders, but I must say we are not looking at stopping Zimbabweans from travelling to the US,” she said.
“We are not happy with the political and human rights situation, but hope there will be changes. We have hope that there will be a peaceful environment in the pre- and post-election period.”
Mugabe, in an interview ahead of his 93rd birthday in February this year, expressed his wish for better relations with Trump after the latter replaced Barack Obama as US President in January.
“I was surprised by his election, but I did not like madam Clinton to win either. I knew she could slap sanctions on us as a legacy,” the Zanu PF leader said then referring to Obama’s former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in the US election last November.
Mugabe and his inner circle were slapped with travel bans, as well as asset freezes, by the US in 2001 over allegations of human rights abuses and electoral malpractices.
But the veteran leader has accused the US and its Western allies of waging a campaign to remove him from power by funding the opposition and denying his government access to cheap funding from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
O’Connel said US foreign policy on Africa would not change.
Her visit to the continent will also take her to South Africa.