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Obama admits sanctions are hurting the innocent but says you have to send clear signals

United States President Barack Obama admitted that sanctions on Zimbabwe, said to be targeted at individuals and firms, are hurting the innocent but the United States had to send clear signals about how it expects elections and governments to be conducted. 

Responding to a question from Zimbabwean entrepreneur Takura Chingonzo that the so-called targeted sanctions were affecting innocent people like him, Obama said: “Well, obviously, the situation in Zimbabwe is somewhat unique. 

The challenge for us in the United States has been how do we balance our desire to help the people of Zimbabwe with what has, frankly, been a repeated violation of basic democratic practices and human rights inside of Zimbabwe. 

And we think it is very important to send clear signals about how we expect elections to be conducted, governments to be conducted — because if we don’t, then all too often, with impunity, the people of those countries can suffer. 

But you’re absolutely right that it also has to be balanced with making sure that whatever structures that we put in place with respect to sanctions don’t end up punishing the very people inside those countries. 

My immediate suggestion — and this is a broader point to all the African businesses who are here, as well as the U.S. businesses — is to make sure that we’re using the Department of Commerce and the other U.S. agencies where we can gather groups of entrepreneurs and find out exactly what can be done, what can’t be done, what resources are available. 

It may be that you and a group of entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe are able to meet with us and propose certain projects that allow us to say this is something that will advance as opposed to retard the progress for the Zimbabwean people. 

So what I’d suggest would be that we set up a meeting and we find out what kinds of things that the young entrepreneurs of Zimbabwe want to do, and see if there are ways that we can work with you consistent with the strong message that we send about good governance in Zimbabwe.”

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