Zimbabwe reads riot act to US ambassador over social media election ad banner

Face-off ,,, US official Elaine French and Zimbabwe's acting foreign secretary Rofina Chikava meeting in Harare on May 30, 2023
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HARARE,— Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry has summoned the United States’ deputy ambassador over a series of tweets the embassy sent calling for a peaceful election in a country that has a history of violent and disputed votes.

The ministry accused the embassy of “election-related social media posts bordering on activism and meddling in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.”

Deputy Ambassador Elaine French was called to a meeting with Zimbabwe foreign affairs acting permanent secretary Rofina Chikava on Tuesday following the posts on the U.S. Embassy’s official Twitter account.

The Zimbabwe foreign ministry said it had a particular issue with a May 26 tweet that called for Zimbabweans to “Register to vote and make sure your voice is heard.” Another tweet from the embassy said “Zimbabwe’s constitution grants citizens the right to choose their representatives in legitimate, credible, & peaceful elections.”

The foreign ministry said the tweet urging people to register to vote was against diplomatic protocols.

“We stand by our recent social media posts calling for peace during the election season,” U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Meg Riggs said in a statement. “Elections are a part of a functioning democracy.”

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said the elections will take place in August, although he hasn’t announced a specific date.

But campaigning has started, with opposition parties already alleging violence and intimidation against their supporters by ruling party activists and security forces. Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF ruling party and the government have denied the allegations but human rights groups have said there is intimidation and Mnangagwa’s government is suppressing criticism amid a currency crisis and a sharp rise in food prices.

Zimbabwe has been under U.S. sanctions for two decades over human rights abuses, which started under the regime of former president Robert Mugabe, who led Zimbabwe from independence from white minority rule in 1980 until he was removed in a coup in 2017 and replaced by Mnangagwa.

Zimbabwe has had a series of violent and disputed elections since 1980 and this vote is expected to be closely contested.

Source: AP