Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the following statement on the first anniversary of the Zimbabwean military opening fire on opposition activists and innocent civilians, killing at least six of them and injuring many more.
"As Zimbabweans mark this somber anniversary, we are reminded of all that can go wrong when regime preservation comes ahead of real democratic change. Zimbabwe is facing a worse political and economic crisis today than in 2017 when long-time ruler Robert Mugabe was forced from power by the country's military. Today, citizens are suffering under staggering inflation, regular fuel and water shortages, rolling blackouts, a failing currency, and an increasingly repressive political environment.
"President Mnangagwa’s efforts to cleanse his government’s image abroad and to convince the Zimbabwean people that their economic woes are the fault of very targeted U.S. sanctions are the wrong priorities. These sanctions are on individuals who violated the rule of law and caused this political and economic chaos. President Mnangagwa should instead focus on delivering the ZANU-PF government's long-promised reforms. He should also uphold his commitment to hold to account those in the military leadership responsible for ordering the shooting of unarmed civilians last August, and since then."
BACKGROUND: The ZANU-PF-led government, under the leadership of President Emerson Mnangagwa, who was installed after the military coup in November 2017 and in flawed elections last year, made sweeping promises upon taking office which included holding members in the military accountable for shooting and killing unarmed civilians in August 2018 and January 2019. Today, August 1, the State Department publicly designated former Presidential Guard Commander Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe and his spouse under Section 7031(c) of the F.Y. 2019 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act (Div. F, P.L. 116-6) due to his involvement in gross violations of human rights, and in particular his role in the violent crackdown against unarmed Zimbabweans during the August 1, 2018, post-election protests.