Zimbabwe on Tuesday summoned the United States ambassador to Harare to protest against Washington’s alleged interference in the country’s forthcoming elections.
Elaine French, the US acting ambassador to Zimbabwe, was called by the Foreign Affairs ministry after her embassy made several Twitter posts encouraging Zimbabweans to “register to vote and make sure your voice is heard.”
Register to vote and make sure your voice is heard. pic.twitter.com/Gd5YLKh0KM— U.S. Embassy Zimbabwe (@USEmbZim) May 26, 2023
Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs acting Permanent Secretary Rofina Chikava had protested over the tweets and urged Americans not to meddle in the country’s political processes.
In a statement, the ministry said Ms Chikava told Ms French that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government was concerned about the “election related-social media posts, bordering on activism and meddling in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.”
The government said the embassy had deviated from conventional diplomatic norms and values enshrined in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961), the formative treaty on the conduct, privileges and limits of ambassadors abroad.
Harare said it urged the US mission to “refrain from posting such messages in the spirit of re-engagement between our two countries.”
An unnamed US embassy official told the Voice of America’s Zimbabwe Service that Ms French reiterated America’s position on free, fair and credible elections.
“She maintained our position that Zimbabwe and other nations are expected to hold free elections,” the official was quoted as saying.
President Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba had earlier tweeted that Zimbabwe might bar American observers during the general election expected in August.
He tweeted: “Today, the Zimbabwe government will summon the US charge d’affaires for (her) mission’s act of diplomatic indiscretion over its advertisement, which meddles in Zimbabwe’s electoral politics, contrary to the Vienna Convention.”
“Matters could come to a head, including disallowing American observer teams,” the tweet added.
Zimbabwe and the US have had frosty relations that go back two decades after Washington imposed sanctions on the regime of the late Robert Mugabe for alleged human-rights violations and electoral fraud.
President Joe Biden’s administration has maintained the embargo, as it accuses Mr Mugabe’s successor of failing to implement economic and political reforms that he promised after the 2017 military coup.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe says it is being punished for implementing a land reform programme that displaced thousands of white commercial farmers at the turn of the millennium.
Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party regularly accuses Western countries of supporting local opposition parties to push for a regime change.