Information Regarding the Temporary Suspension of the Peace Corps Program in Zimbabwe

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 20, 2001-The Peace Corps announced today it has temporarily suspended its program in Zimbabwe. The decision to suspend followed the Government of Zimbabwe’s failure to provide work permits for volunteer teachers, as stipulated in the bilateral agreement between the Government of Zimbabwe and the Peace Corps.

The 43 currently serving Peace Corps Volunteers in Zimbabwe attended a session late last week to address administrative issues and left the country today to return home or for personal travel. Peace Corps staff members, including the Regional Director for Africa, traveled to Zimbabwe to meet with the volunteers, Government of Zimbabwe officials and officials at the United States Embassy.

Teacher trainees who recently arrived in Zimbabwe were denied work permits without explanation from government representatives. Without work permits, those volunteers could not remain in-country and do the type of work for which they had been selected and trained. The Peace Corps has continuously monitored the viability of its program because of the volatile political environment in Zimbabwe and the country’s upcoming elections. Last year, as violence escalated in Zimbabwe, particularly in the rural areas, the program size was reduced by nearly two-thirds.

Not only did Peace Corps elect to reduce its presence in the country, but shifted programs from rural to the urban and semi-urban areas. The Peace Corps projects also shifted away from teaching English, although health volunteers who primarily teach HIV/AIDS prevention continued to be a critical and viable program.

Peace Corps regrets the suspension of programs in Zimbabwe after a 10-year partnership with the government and people of that nation. Over 350 volunteers have worked in Zimbabwe since the first group arrived in 1991. Though Peace Corps views the suspension as necessary at this time, staff will remain and reassess the safety situation with the intent to re-open the program when a more stable climate returns.

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