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Things are still going badly in Zimbabwe, and there’s little doubt that the same old negative forces are to blame. There is also concern that once the attention of the World Cup in South Africa has passed, that the risk of renewed violence will rise.
A palpable malaise has fallen over U.S. policy toward Zimbabwe however and, at least viewed from the outside, our policy seems stuck in an overly reactive and negative rut. The coalition government has many deep flaws, but is still a window of opportunity for the outside players to push toward reform and recovery.
In my testimony to the Senate last September, I worried that waiting passively on the sidelines for democracy to materialize was a recipe for failure and made four modest suggestions of things the U.S. could do that might be constructive.
The Senate, apparently also frustrated with the lack of new action, is now taking the lead. A bill introduced today by Senators Feingold (D-WI), Isakson (R-GA), and Kerry (D-MA) calls for more direct U.S. support for reformist ministries and additional flexibility for the IFIs to engage with Zimbabwe. On the sticks side, it also calls for exploration of possible new sanctions against those using illegal diamond mining to fund violence. These all seem like sensible small steps. If they spur the administration to start thinking more aggressively and creatively, then it could wind up being a big step in the right direction.