The U.S. Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, has removed a tweet praising the country’s late leader Robert Mugabe, with the State Department issuing a new statement acknowledging the human rights abuses attributed to former leader.
The embassy had issued a tweet early Friday marking the death of Mugabe, a Zimbabwean revolutionary who later spent years ruling the country as a strongman leader. Mugabe died this week in Singapore at the age of 95.
“The United States extends its condolences to the Mugabe family and the people of Zimbabwe as they mourn the passing of former President Robert Mugabe,” the embassy said in the now-deleted tweet. “We join the world in reflecting on his legacy in securing Zimbabwe’s independence.”
The tweet quickly sparked backlash online, with Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) questioning whether the embassy was running “a parody account.”
— US Rep Brendan Boyle (@RepBrendanBoyle) September 7, 2019
— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) September 7, 2019
My god pic.twitter.com/cmWyY6v3NM
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) September 7, 2019
Mugabe was instrumental in gaining independence for Zimbabwe from the United Kingdom and overthrowing the majority-white ruling party in 1980. However, he was regarded as a serial violator of human rights during his 37-year tenure.
Mugabe was repeatedly accused of unleashing death squads on supporters of the opposition, rigging presidential elections and overseeing a falling economy that sparked poverty and hyperinflation.
He was sanctioned by the United Nations in 2003 over the human rights abuses and was ultimately removed from power in 2017 by a military coup after he appeared set to appoint his second wife as the next president.
The State Department released a more measured statement Friday recognizing the dual nature of Mugabe’s legacy.
“We extend our condolences to those mourning the loss of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Robert Mugabe helped liberate Zimbabwe, but his human rights abuses and gross economic mismanagement impoverished millions and betrayed his people’s hopes for their nation,” the agency said. “We continue to support the aspirations of the Zimbabwean people for a better, more prosperous future.”
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill regarding the Harare Embassy’s tweet.
Today we note the death of Robert Mugabe. While he led Zimbabwe to independence, his legacy was tarnished by human rights abuses & poor governance. We stand w/ the people of Zimbabwe in the hope of a free, more prosperous Zimbabwe led by a government accountable to its citizens. pic.twitter.com/2oSlE40dJG.
Source: The Hill