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UPDATE: Britain backs Zimbabwe return to Commonwealth

LONDON – Britain said on Friday it would strongly support Zimbabwe’s re-entry to the Commonwealth and praised President Emmerson Mnangagwa for impressive progress since Robert Mugabe was toppled in a military coup.

“The UK would strongly support Zimbabwe’s re-entry and a new Zimbabwe that is committed to political and economic reform that works for all its people,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Zimbabwe left the group in 2003 after former president Robert Mugabe was criticised over disputed elections and violent seizures of white-owned farms.

British foreign minister Boris Johnson met his Zimbabwean counterpart, Sibusiso Moyo, and ministers from neighbouring African states for talks on Friday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Johnson said July’s election would be a bellwether for the direction of a new Zimbabwe.

“The Zimbabwe government must deliver the free and fair elections the people of Zimbabwe deserve and which it has promised,” he said.

Zimbabwe has said it will invite Western powers to monitor its national elections for the first time in more than 15 years.

“President Mnangagwa has been in power for 150 days and while Zimbabwe has made impressive progress, there is still much to do,” Johnson said. “That’s why Britain, the Commonwealth and the wider international community will do everything it can in supporting Zimbabwe on its path of reform.”

“The UK stands ready in friendship to support a Zimbabwe that fully embraces the rule of law, human rights and economic reform,” Johnson said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa — who took over when Mugabe quit, after nearly four decades in power, following a de facto military coup last November — has said he wants Zimbabwe to rejoin the organisation of 53 mostly former territories of the British Empire.

Johnson has previously said Zimbabwe’s Commonwealth readmittance would be a “fine and noble aspiration” for both parties, but that it must hold free and fair election first and also prove it meets the organisation’s standards on the rule of law, democracy and human rights.

Speaking earlier this week, he praised the country’s progress under Mnangagwa but said there was still much to do.


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