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5 Dec, 2023 10:09

US targets two African states with travel bans

Current and former officials in Uganda and Zimbabwe will be denied US visas
US targets two African states with travel bans

Washington announced on Monday that it is expanding a travel ban policy on Ugandan officials, after their government recently passed an anti-LGBTQ law, as well as a new visa restriction policy for Zimbabwean authorities, citing human rights violations in both African countries.

The visa restriction policy for Uganda targets current and former officials believed to be responsible for repressing members of marginalized groups, such as LGBTQ people and civil society activists, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Monday.

In a separate statement, Blinken cited electoral corruption and human rights violations, including intimidation of voters and election observers, as reasons for Washington’s decision to ban visas for Zimbabwean officials.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was reelected for a second term in the August elections.

Anyone who undermines the democratic process in Zimbabwe – including in the lead-up to, during, and following Zimbabwe’s August 2023 elections – may be found ineligible for US visas under this policy,” Blinken announced.

The US Secretary of State did not mention any officials affected by the legislation.

Uganda passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023 in May, making “aggravated homosexuality,” involving transmitting HIV through gay sex, a capital offense. The law, which also imposes penalties of up to life in prison for consensual same-sex relationships, has been named one of the harshest in the world by Western critics.

In June, the US State Department imposed visa restrictions on the sponsors of the anti-gay legislation and warned that officials responsible for human rights violations in the East African country would be held accountable.

Previously, the US imposed a travel ban on Kampala, claiming that the 2021 presidential elections, which gave President Yoweri Museveni a sixth term, were “flawed.” Washington kicked Uganda and three neighboring countries out of its flagship trade program, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, for alleged “gross violations” of participation requirements.

On Monday, Blinken claimed that Washington is committed to working with Ugandans to advance democracy and human rights, urging the government to “make concerted efforts to uphold democracy and respect and protect human rights.”

However, President Museveni has repeatedly said Uganda will not be intimidated into abandoning its principles and sovereignty and recently announced his government’s preference for working with foreign partners who respect the country.

In September, Zimbawe’s leader also criticized covert actions in Africa by Western countries in a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York. Mnangagwa condemned using “unilateral” and “illegal” sanctions, including those imposed on Zimbabwe as a foreign policy tool.

Apart from the US embargo regime, the southern African country has been subject to EU-targeted sanctions for more than two decades, which were imposed under the late former President Robert Mugabe in response to concerns about political violence and human rights violations. The EU announced in September that it would not provide Zimbabwe with $5 million in financial assistance due to the country’s recent disputed elections.