On Tuesday morning, after attending Rep. Karen Bass’ Africa Policy Breakfast Series, I headed over to the Dirksen Senate Building for my first Congressional hearing, Examining Prospects for Democratic Reform and Economic Recovery in Zimbabwe. The title aside, the hearing was primarily an inquiry into Zimbabwe’s upcoming elections. Two members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ Subcommittee on African Affairs presided over the hearing. Chris Coons (D – DE, he apparently studied in Kenya as an undergrad), the Committee Chair took the lead with support from Jeff Flake (R – AZ). Flake had spent time in Zimbabwe in 1982 – 83 as a Mormon missionary. His Wikipedia page says that he speaks Afrikaans and opposed sanctions on South Africa in the 1980s. He was also Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Namibia (no idea what that is).
The session consisted of two panels, one with prominent US government officials (State and USAID) and another with key civil society Zimbabwe watchers (in that order). I’ll discuss the latter panel here and will cover the first panel in a post on Thursday. Continue reading