Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Zimbabwe is constitutionally a republic; however, until February 2009, the government, dominated by President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party since independence, was authoritarian. Following months of negotiations after the fraudulent 2008 elections, Mugabe and ZANU-PF entered into a power-sharing agreement with the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), with Mugabe as president and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was sworn-in on February 11, 2009, as prime minister. The last four national elections, including the harmonized presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2008, and the presidential run-off in June 2008, were not free and fair. In the March elections, two factions of MDC gained a parliamentary majority. Mugabe was declared the winner of the June run-off election after Tsvangirai withdrew due to ZANU-PF-directed violence that made a free and fair election impossible. ZANU-PF and the MDC subsequently entered into the power-sharing agreement.

During 2008 the government continued the pervasive and systematic abuse of human rights. ZANU-PF's manipulation of the political process through violence, intimidation, and corruption effectively negated the right of citizens to change their government. State-sanctioned use of excessive force, including unlawful killings and politically motivated abductions, increased. Security forces abducted, tortured, arbitrarily arrested, and detained the opposition, members of civil society, labor leaders, journalists, demonstrators, and religious leaders. Prison conditions were life threatening. Executive influence and interference in the judiciary continued. The government continued to evict citizens and to demolish homes and informal marketplaces. The government continued to suppress freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, academic freedom, and movement. Tens of thousands of citizens were displaced in the wake of election-related violence, and the government impeded NGOs' efforts to assist vulnerable populations. The following human rights violations also continued: violence and discrimination against women; trafficking of women and children; discrimination against persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, and persons living with HIV/AIDS; harassment and interference with labor organizations; child labor; and forced labor, including of children.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The overarching goal of U.S. policy is to support the local people in their efforts to bring peace, stability, prosperity, and democracy to their country. The United States focuses on promoting the country's transformation from an authoritarian government to one that promotes and protects its citizens’ freedoms and seeks to meet their needs. Crucial to the realization of this objective will be for the transitional government to hold free and fair elections under a new constitution. The chief of mission and other U.S. officials continue to press publicly and privately for political and economic reform by making clear that developmental assistance will be dependent on the transition government demonstrating its commitment to equal access to humanitarian assistance, macroeconomic stabilization, rule of law, democratic processes, human rights, and timely and internationally supervised elections.

To achieve these objectives within the context of the transition government, U.S. priorities include developing the capacity and independence of civil society and reformist elements of the new government. Specific areas of focus may include strengthening civil society's ability to advocate for political reform and to hold government accountable; assistance to the parliament to enable it to fulfill its role in holding the executive accountable; strengthening media independence; and support to build the capacity of local government to enhance service delivery. The United States continues to provide food and HIV/AIDS assistance to vulnerable populations.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States encourages a transition in the country to a government that respects democratic process and human rights through a variety of means, including assistance programs, diplomacy, and dialogue. U.S. officials continue to raise the country's poor human rights record in international fora and bilaterally with other governments, emphasize with government and party officials the importance of ending human rights abuses, and convey concerns regarding the numerous election-related abuses. U.S. officials observed local and national elections at polling stations throughout the country. To encourage greater public debate on the restoration of good governance and economic growth, the United States sponsors public events that highlight how transparent democratic systems can empower citizens by leveling the political playing field, restoring the rule of law, and creating a market environment conducive to economic recovery.

U.S. programs strengthen the capacity of nongovernmental actors, including the media, to enhance civic participation, consensus-building, and accountability. The United States sponsors programs to assist civil society groups in improving organizational capacity, strategic thinking, leadership, and internal governance. The United States supports civil society organizations that document human rights abuses and provide critical assistance to the thousands of political opposition and human rights defenders who were victims of state-sponsored violence. Programs and organizations that provide citizens with unbiased information about government policies and the right to petition their government for change also are supported by the United States. A U.S.-sponsored radio program broadcasts uncensored news throughout the country. Despite government efforts to jam the transmission and seize radios from listening groups, this program is the principal source of independent news in the country. Citizens also have access to independent information through a U.S.-sponsored information resource center and other programs.

In support of religious freedom, the U.S. Government widely disseminates relevant reports on religious rights and promotes the benefits of religious pluralism. U.S. officials privately and publicly emphasize concerns regarding intimidation and harassment of religious leaders who criticize the government, condemn human rights abuses and flawed economic policies, and who seek to sustain a dialogue to improve the country's political situation. To encourage the protection of worker rights, U.S. officials publicly condemn the government's repressive restrictions on freedom of assembly. The United States supports programs on labor issues, including activities to promote international labor standards and build capacity within labor unions. Labor leaders have participated in U.S.-sponsored professional exchange programs on civic activism, organized labor, and conflict resolution. The United States shares best practices and promotes cooperation to combat trafficking in persons and supports programs providing assistance to trafficking victims.

The United States remains the largest contributor of humanitarian assistance in the country. These programs provide food aid, HIV/AIDS services, medication and prevention for malaria and tuberculosis, and livelihood assistance to persons who are left vulnerable by the political and economic crisis, regardless of their political affiliation.