Zimbabwe has summoned the ambassador of the United States to the country over remarks by a senior US official accusing it of stirring anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody.
In an interview with ABC news on Sunday, US national security adviser Robert O’Brien referred to Zimbabwe and China as “foreign adversaries” using social media to stoke unrest and “sow discord”, without citing any evidence.
Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry spokesman James Manzou said US Ambassador Brian Nichols was called in to explain O’Brien’s remarks on Monday.
The United States has been rocked by days of sometimes violent protests after Floyd, an unarmed African American, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while a white police officer knelt on his neck, ignoring complaints he could not breathe.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has portrayed the violence as the work of outside groups.
Officials are investigating whether foreign adversaries are behind a burgeoning disinformation campaign on social media.
Statement by Ambassador Nichols on his Meeting with Foreign Minister Moyo pic.twitter.com/SmcphOCxoD
— U.S. Embassy Harare (@usembassyharare) June 1, 2020
Government spokesman Nick Mangwana said Zimbabwe did not consider itself “America’s adversary”.
“We prefer having friends and allies to having unhelpful adversity with any other nation including the USA,” Mangwana said in a Twitter post on Sunday.
Zimbabwe-US relations have been tense since Washington imposed sanctions on former president Robert Mugabe and members of his inner circle in 2002 over rights abuses.
Those sanctions were extended in March of this year, with Washington citing President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s failure to implement reforms as well as his violent crackdowns on opposition since he took power in 2017.
Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s successor, is one of the more than 80 Zimbabweans who are sanctioned by the US government, which prevents them from having US bank accounts and traveling to the US.