US Congress senior staffers in Harare on fact-finding visit

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A TWO member delegation from the United States Congress is in Zimbabwe on a three-day fact-finding visit, the US embassy has confirmed.news_b1obama-west-point

The Staff Delegation is led by Gregory Simpkins a Staff Director for the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Health, Human Rights, and International Relations. (HFAC). Simpkins will be accompanied by Piero Tozzi, Counsel in the HFAC.

According to a statement released Sunday by the US embassy in Harare, “the two officials will meet representatives of government, business and civil society organizations to hear first-hand accounts about the situation in Zimbabwe in relation to human rights, democracy and governance”.

“Early this month, the U.S. Congress subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations conducted a hearing on Zimbabwe,” the embassy said.

“During the hearing a wide range of issues including United States government policy on Zimbabwe and future relations between the two countries.

“Dr Shannon Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, gave a presentation during the hearing which is available online”.

This will be a second high level visit by a US delegation to Zimbabwe after another early last month led by Smith and Steven Feldstein, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, visited Zimbabwe “on a similar fact-finding mission”.

Relations between Zimbabwe and the US have been strained in the past decade and half amid accusations by Washington that President Robert Mugabe’s administration is guilty of human rights violations and electoral fraud.

Mugabe and senior members of his inner circle were slapped with travel sanctions while a Congressional Act passed in 2002 prohibits government-to-government cooperation between the two countries.

In turn Mugabe has accused the Americans of trying to push him out of government by illegal means and in cohorts with the local opposition as well as civic groups.

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