Following a wave of strikes, civil unrest and a high profile court case against a religious leader, Evan Mawarire, in Zimbabwe, a French diplomat has warned the country’s leaders to heed to citizens’ calls for change before it’s too late.
Images of police brutality against citizens and a popular pastor’s arrest on charges of trying to topple the government have been beamed across the globe over the last week.
While Zimbabwe is attempting to woo western investors on the promise of reforms, outgoing French Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Laurent Delahousse has told authorities that the world is watching the unfolding events.
The French envoy’s stint has seen increased business ties with Zimbabwe, but it has also been marked by tension.
During celebrations to mark France’s Independence day Delahousse also warned Zimbabwe following the arrest of a popular pastor over his criticism of the government.
“Those who called in song and in prayer for a new, united and peaceful Zimbabwe, may their appeal be heeded before it is too late.”
Zimbabwe says it has intelligence linking the French and US Ambassadors to the violence that rocked Harare and Bulawayo last week.
Home Affairs Minister, Ignatious Chombo, says, “It has come to our attention that the western sponsored regime change agenda has intensified.”
The French envoy has ridiculed the claims against him and called Zimbabwe to uphold its Constitution in handling the waves of discontent over the economy.
Delahousse says, “I make no excuses for believing in democracy and human rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the freedom to assemble and demonstrate within the framework of the law and to use social media in a peaceful manner, the protection of the people by the state without unnecessary force and the right to stay at home.”
Zimbabwe is aggressively pursuing an agenda of a re-engagement with the West, the World Bank and the IMF.
This comes after over a decade of political and economic sanctions over long standing debt arrears and human rights abuses. Fresh loans will help jump start an economy in crisis.
Delahousse says, “Money can come this year once again, because of that sense of emergency everyone recognizes that the situation needs urgent solutions.”
However, global lenders want a raft of economic reforms that will ensure that this time Zimbabwe can repay its new loans, but the French envoy says the world is monitoring governance, human rights and the events that have unfolded over the last few weeks.
Delahousse says, “It has a link with the economic sustainability in the future so all of that is linked and we take that into consideration certainly.”
He says despite sporadic abuses, Zimbabwe’s rights record has improved over the years, but that it will need to take strong decisions if it is to fully re-engage with Europe and the US.