HARARE – Zimbabwe’s government on Wednesday summoned the U.S. ambassador in Harare to warn it would not hesitate to expel him if he was seen as trying to stir unrest by “unjust and baseless” attacks against President Robert
An angry Mugabe on Tuesday told the U.S. ambassador, Christopher Dell, to “go to hell” after the envoy blamed the southern African country’s economic and political crisis on mismanagement and corrupt rule.
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told a news conference he had summoned Dell and protested against his “undiplomatic” criticism of the government in a public lecture and statement last week.
Mumbengegwi said the U.S. ambassador was trying to incite a political revolt against Mugabe by directing “unjust and baseless attacks against the government of Zimbabwe.”
“The ministry, I stated to the ambassador, takes very, very serious exception to his conduct … and that the government of Zimbabwe will not hesitate to invoke the appropriate provisions of the Vienna Convention (governing diplomatic relations) should at any time in the future the U.S. ambassador again act in violation of the laws of the country,” he said.
The Vienna Convention allows host countries to expel diplomats or demand the withdrawal of diplomats believed to be interfering in the domestic affairs of their hosts or those acting in an undiplomatic manner.
Mumbengegwi refused to comment in detail on the measures Zimbabwe might take, but said cryptically: “I reiterate and reiterated (to Dell) that the government will take stern measures against diplomats who abuse their privileges.”
STRONGEST CRITICISM BY DIPLOMAT
In one of the strongest statements yet by a foreign diplomat based in Harare, Dell said Mugabe’s government was responsible for plunging Zimbabwe into a crisis which had left it with soaring poverty and chronic food shortages.
Mugabe, 81 and in power for 25 years, embarked on a controversial drive of seizing and redistributing white-owned farms to landless blacks in 2000, and earlier this year tens of thousands of people were made homeless after the government ordered the demolition of shacks and “illegal houses”.
Mumbengegwi said he had told Dell during a brief meeting on Wednesday that his comments on the Zimbabwe crisis were unacceptably partisan.
Dell had deliberately assumed “the role of a local political figure, portraying the government as a villain and in the process inciting people in flagrant violation of the laws of the country,” he charged.
Mumbengegwi said Dell had failed to acknowledge that Zimbabwe’s problems had been compounded by financial aid sanctions imposed on Mugabe’s government by the United States and the European Union.
Dell was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.
But earlier this week, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli backed the ambassador’s comments, saying they “very fairly and accurately reflect the policy of the United States”.
When asked about the confrontation, Ereli said: “This is not about a speech by our ambassador, it’s about failed economic policies of the government of Zimbabwe and President Mugabe.”
Mugabe’s relations with many Western powers, including the United States and the European Union, have soured in the last few years over charges of human rights abuses and vote-rigging.
But Mugabe says he has been targeted by foreign opponents led by Zimbabwe’s former colonial ruler Britain for his nationalistic policies and says most of Africa is on his side in which he describes as a struggle against imperialism. — Reuter