International Relations of Zimbabwe

Since independence, Zimbabwe has enunciated and follows a policy of "active nonalignment." In practice, this has meant that Zimbabwe usually adhered to positions established by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union; or, until it withdrew in 2003, the Commonwealth.

The United States was the first country extended official diplomatic recognition to the new government immediately after independence. The United States was the first nation to open an embassy in Salisbury (Harare) on that day. A resident Embassy was established in Harare on Zimbabwe's Independence Day, April 18, 1980.

Parliament convened for the first time on May 13, 1980. Zimbabwe became a member of the United Nations on August 25, 1980.

Zimbabwe generally has good relations with its neighbours. Southern African Development Community (SADC) members have not publicly confronted Zimbabwe on humanitarian, human rights and related political issues. As the then chairman of SADC's Organ for Peace and Security, Mugabe put together a coalition of Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe to intervene in DR Congo in 1997, although this was not formally endorsed by SADC.

Zimbabwe took a particular interest in the search for independence for Namibia (South-West Africa) from South Africa. In addition, as chairman of the front-line states in southern Africa, Zimbabwe spoke out vigorously against the policies of apartheid in South African and frequently called for the imposition of economic sanctions against Pretoria.

During the intervention Zimbabwean troops came into direct conflict with their Rwandan and Ugandan counterparts. The last Zimbabwean troops withdrew in 2003. In early 2007, South Africa's president Mbeki was charged by SADC with mediating in Zimbabwean politics, in preparation for the 2008 elections. The mediation process has focussed on the need for free and fair elections. Amendments to the Constitution, and minor changes to repressive legislation (Public Order and Security Act, Access to Information and the Protection of Privacy Act, Broadcasting Services Act) have been agreed by both parties. But lack of implementation of these agreements and doubts about whether the conditions yet exist for elections have been the main sticking point.

As of January 2008, the parties remain deadlocked. President Mbeki has yet to make an announcement on the outcome of the talks.Several deadlines have been missed for an end to the mediation, and the talks are months behind schedule. Although the process has not concluded, all indications are that elections will be in March 2008.
Outside of SADC, relations with the rest of Africa are primarily handled in the context of the AU. Zimbabwe's straitened economic circumstances, and relative international isolation, have inhibited its participation in continental and international political programmes such as peacekeeping.

In November 1982, Zimbabwe was chosen by the OAU to hold one of the non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council for the following two years, which brought it onto the center stage of world events and gave it much-needed experience in international affairs. In 1986, Zimbabwe was the site of the NAM summit meeting; Prime Minister Mugabe became chairman of that organization, giving both Mugabe and Zimbabwe added international visibility and responsibility.

Defence relations with donors began to sour in 1997, when an arms embargo was imposed by the EU in response to Zimbabwe's intervention in DR Congo. Political relations declined rapidly after 2000 because of ZANU-PF's political and economic programmes, particularly the seizure of land, the introduction of repressive legislation and increasing violence against its political opponents. The EU introduced targeted measures against individual members of the regime in 2002. These measures have been renewed annually and the number of regime figures on this list increases regularly. The EU does not have any economic sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe maintains embassies in the United States, United Kingdom, Egypt, Angola, Kenya, Senegal, Nigeria, India, Sweden, France, China, Malaysia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Swaziland, Belgium, Tanzania, Botswana, Serbia, Mozambique, Switzerland, Cuba, Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany, India, Italy, Russia, and South Africa. Sixty-six countries are represented in Harare as are several international organizations including UN institutions, the European Union, and the World Bank.

Zimbabwe is a member of many international organizations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF); African Development Bank; The World Trade Organization; Southern African Development Community (SADC); Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa (PTA); African Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP, in association with the EU); Group of 77 (G-77); Group of 15 (G-15); NAM; African Union (AU); Customs Cooperation Council (CCC); and the World Federation of Trade Unions.

The IMF Executive Board in July 2004 postponed until January 2005 deliberations on a recommendation for Zimbabwe's compulsory withdrawal from the institution. The IMF closed its Zimbabwe office in October 2004 in a decision not linked to the country's considerable arrears. Shortly after the March 2002 presidential election, the Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe from leadership councils for one year after the Commonwealth's election observer team found the conduct of the election seriously flawed. After this suspension was upheld in December 2003, Mugabe withdrew Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth.

Historically, Zimbabwe's closest links have been with the U.K.; however, in the past seven years, this relationship has been very strained.

The government has demonized Britain in the press, blaming the country for Zimbabwe's problems, and claiming that Britain reneged on promises made at Lancaster House to provide money for land reform. As with the U.S., thousands of Zimbabweans studied in the U.K., and private links remain close; however, official relations are strained.

Other West European countries have ties with Zimbabwe. The Scandinavian countries share certain philosophical affinities and have provided much assistance, as have France, Canada, and the Federal Republic of Germany. Portugal and Greece maintain links partly because of the sizable Portuguese and Greek communities in the country. Similar historical ties have led to the establishment of relations with India and Pakistan, and to a lesser extent, with Bangladesh. The government's "look east" policy has led to closer diplomatic relations with East Asian countries such as Malaysia and China.

Zimbabwe maintains diplomatic relations with virtually every African country, although some ties are closer than others. African nations with embassies in Harare are Algeria, Angola, Botswana, D.R.C., Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Ruled continuously by a liberation party, Zimbabwe developed and maintains close ties with a number of revolutionary states and organizations. Among these are the People's Republic of China, Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Libya, and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Membership of international organisations: United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF - Zimbabwe's voting rights are currently suspended); World Bank, African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Non Aligned Movement (NAM). Zimbabwe decided to withdraw from the Commonwealth on 7 December 2003 following its suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth.

Last Updated on Monday 4th August 2008