By Stephanie McBride, Amnesty International Canada’s Zimbabwe Coordinator
When I lived in Zimbabwe last year, my friends and I would often talk politics. President Robert Mugabe had ruled the country for their entire lives. Our discussions focused on their frustration— frustration that genuine political engagement with civil society remained out of reach; frustration that public declarations and policy statements amounted to very little in practice; and frustration that the political process involved taking one step forward and two steps back.
A step forward was taken in March, when a national referendum led to the adoption of a new constitution. Citing a “peaceful, successful, and credible” referendum, the European Union terminated sanctions against 81 Zimbabwean officials, leaving only 10 people on the list, including President Robert Mugabe. The new constitution limits the President to two five-year terms and includes a bill of rights which stipulates freedom of expression and freedom of the press.