gtag('config', 'UA-12595121-1'); Zimbabwe Sends Junior Officer to US-Africa Command Conference in Gaborone – The Zimbabwe Mail

Zimbabwe Sends Junior Officer to US-Africa Command Conference in Gaborone

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Gaborone, Botswana – Defense chiefs from 32 African nations have gathered in Gaborone for a two-day U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) conference, focusing on the security situation across the continent. Notably absent from the list of invited countries is Zimbabwe, which did not receive an invitation to the event.

Despite the exclusion, a junior officer from Zimbabwe, Charles Shumba, who is attached to the country’s embassy in Botswana, is attending the conference at the invitation of the host nation. A senior U.S. military official disclosed that while Botswana had included Zimbabwe in the list of participants, Washington objected to their inclusion.

Rose Keravouri, AFRICOM’s director of intelligence, clarified the situation to VOA, stating that the decision to exclude Zimbabwe was made by the U.S. civilian leadership. “We take instructions from our civilian leadership. Because of some policies in Zimbabwe, the Security Council said they will not be invited to the conference,” Keravouri explained.

Keravouri emphasized that the exclusion should not be interpreted as an act of isolation towards Zimbabwe. “That’s not to say we cannot learn lessons from Zimbabwe. I want to push back on the statement that we are isolating Zimbabwe. That is not the intent. The intent is we come in when we are asked. If any African partner wants support or wants us to help in a certain region, that is what we help with.”

This situation comes amid tensions between Zimbabwe and the U.S., highlighted by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent comments during a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Mnangagwa accused the U.S. of isolating Zimbabwe while providing security and military support to neighboring countries like Malawi and Zambia. This statement has sparked anger in Zambia, with President Hakainde Hichilema’s administration reporting the issue to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU).

The U.S. has imposed targeted sanctions on Mnangagwa and his inner circle over allegations of corruption, human rights violations, and election rigging. Zimbabwe’s close ties with Russia, dating back to the country’s liberation war in the 1960s, and its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have further strained relations with the West.

In his opening address at the conference, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi expressed concern over the recent surge in military coups across Africa. He emphasized the importance of unity and cooperation to achieve the continent’s vision of silencing the guns by 2030 and ensuring peace and stability.

“It is imperative that we come together as one cohesive force to achieve Africa’s noble vision of silencing the guns by 2030 and ensure peace and stability across the continent,” Masisi stated. He also highlighted the urgent need to respect the democratic ideal of constitutionally elected governments, noting the undemocratic removal of leadership as a significant challenge.

Between 2021 and 2023, West Africa experienced seven coups, underscoring the urgent need for discussions on security and stability. U.S. AFRICOM commander, General Michael Langley, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of addressing security threats and enhancing cooperation.

“This year we look to understand a bigger picture on how we expand our cooperation and how we share our values,” Langley said. “We discuss how we bring all the instruments of national power together and put them on the table and also the importance of civil-military relationship and closing that gap.”

The Gaborone meeting, the first held in Africa since the conference’s inception in 2017, provides a vital platform for African defense chiefs to collaborate and find solutions to the continent’s security challenges.