EDITORIAL: The United States Embassy Should Respect Zimbabwe’s Sovereignty and Not Interfere With Elections

The Editor: The Zimbabwe Sphere.

It seems that the United States of America, with its nauseating claims as the perfect moral embodiment of democracy, can do whatever it likes in the sovereign affairs of other people. And the obduracy of its intransigence and arrogance makes the whole thing truly insufferable.

US Embassy Zimbabwe on Twitter

Register to vote and make sure your voice is heard.” This is what the U.S. Embassy Zimbabwe tweeted on 25 May, 2023. And the irony of this tweet being published on Africa Day is not lost on us.

With these words, a diplomatic row ensued between lowly Zimbabwe and the American Embassy. The infamous tweet is just the “most notable” among quite a number of other social media ads from the Embassy calling on Zimbabwean citizens to participate in this year’s elections.

Any sensible citizen would obviously raise the question: Who gave the U.S. Embassy the right to comment on our elections in that manner, and to put up social media ads urging Zimbabweans to register to vote?

The picture that accompanied the 25 May "register to vote" tweet.

And this whole issue squarely rests upon the above question; regardless of anyone’s predisposed opinions or partisan biases. It is, in a wholesale sense, a matter of principle. Inviolable principles.

Of course, and predictably, Zimbabwean officials were in a furore—the Americans are meddling in the country’s [sovereign] internal affairs.

For those who exude inclinations towards opposing anything from the ruling establishment [often conflated with the government] this narrative might seem like a the usual platitudes of an “undemocratic” ruling elite. But it’s a matter that belongs to every citizen of this country regardless of one’s political biases/affiliations.

In the wake of the May 25 tweet, the Zimbabwean government immediately summoned a top U.S. diplomat in attempts to resolve this brazen show of “a deviation from diplomatic norms” contrary to the Vienna Convention of 1961.

George Charamba, who can be frustratingly excitable on Twitter, retorted that the Zimbabwean government “will summon the US Charge D’Affaires for his mission’s act of diplomatic indiscretion over its advertisement which meddles in Zimbabwe’s electoral politics, contrary to the Vienna Convention.”

And indeed, the top American diplomat was summoned.  Livit Mugejo, spokesperson for Zimbabwes Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Elaine French, the Charge dAffaires at the U.S. Embassy in Harare, had been summoned over the Embassy’s social media ads—Elaine French met and spoke with Rofina Chikava, Zimbabwe’s acting secretary for foreign affairs.

The latter made clear the nation’s concerns “ over the [U.S.] missions election related-social media posts, bordering on activism and meddling in Zimbabwe's internal affairs”.

Chikava drove home the point that the conduct by the US Embassy was unacceptable as it deviated from conventional diplomatic norms and values enshrined in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961). The ministry also urged the US embassy to refrain from posting such messages in the spirit of re-engagement between our two countries.”

Yet, in all this, the U.S. Embassy in Harare saw nothing wrong with its rather egregious actions. Do not be surprised. That is exactly the typical behaviour of the United States when it comes to matters of its obsolete foreign policy: interfere! interefere! never take responsibility!

Elaine French “reiterated her mission’s commitment to improve its communication in line with expected diplomatic conduct”, while Meg Riggs, the Embassy’s spokesperson, said that there was nothing wrong with the social media ads.

And this is what Riggs obstinately remarked:

We stand by our recent social media posts calling for peace during the election season.

These neutral apolitical messages feature the work of Zimbabwean artists who wanted to engage their fellow youths on the importance of peace during an electoral process by our recent social media posts calling for peace during the election season.

Elections are a fundamental part of a functioning democracy. All Zimbabweans deserve this chance to choose their future safely...Our embassy will continue to urge peace, transparency and inclusivity in Zimbabwe.

It’s obvious. These words by Riggs are purely spurious. The United States, whose list of atrocities against sovereign peoples of this world throughout history is horrendously endless, has no moral standing to lecture others about what a “functioning democracy” is.

For a country that perennially supports and sponsors the apartheid settler-colonial state of Israel to perpetuate unspeakable atrocities against the Palestinian peoples, it surely does not have any moral justification to lecture others about how to run their affairs. It is true: the U.S. has caused the mess in all of Latin America, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan. Et cetera.

The American Embassy does not have any prerogative whatsoever to run social media ads telling Zimbabwean citizens to register to vote. Because as far as we can recall Zimbabwe has never done something of that nature in any Western country’s electoral affairs.

So this is a matter of principle. Regardless of which side of the political divide you stand. Our unwavering position is that the U.S. Embassy in Harare must respect Zimbabwe’s sovereignty.

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