Zimbabwe accuses USAID of meddling in its democratic process


Zimbabwe ambassador to the UNited States Tadeous Tafirenyika Chifamba has accused the United States Agency for International Development of interfering in the country’s democratic processes — calling USAID’s human rights and governance work a “gross violation” of Zimbabwe’s sovereignty.

His remarks came just hours after the United States sounded the alarm on Zimbabwe for allegedly intimidating, harassing, and deporting USAID staff and contractors, whom the US Department of State said were “abruptly detained and deported” last month.

“[USAID staff] were asking people questions like, why did the opposition lose after we’ve given you so much support?” Chifamba told Devex, referring to Zimbabwe’s national election last August. “This clearly is an attempt at regime change.”

USAID Administrator Samantha Power released a statement on Friday claiming Zimbabwean authorities verbally and physically intimidated US officials conducting a human rights, governance, and democracy assessment in the southern African nation. They were subjected to overnight detention, prolonged interrogation, and forced deportation, Power said, a “grave development” after two years of similar incidents.

A USAID spokesperson said the agency notified the government of Zimbabwe about its assessment plans “well in advance” of the team’s arrival, and requested a meeting to provide a pre-brief to the authorities. 

USAID missions periodically engage in analytical processes to assess the agency’s foreign assistance programmes, the spokesperson said — a regular procedure used by USAID missions to inform their work. The team was at work for 10 days before the incident occurred.

“These unjustifiable actions render hollow the Government of Zimbabwe’s claims that it is committed to the reforms necessary for democratic governance and reengagement with the international community,” Power said in the statement.

These events aren’t happening in a vacuum. Earlier this week, the US sanctioned Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa and other senior government officials for alleged corruption and human rights abuses. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed Zimbabwean government officials were involved in looting national coffers and participating in abductions, abuse, and killings that have “left citizens living in fear”.

Chifamba told Devex those allegations were “a lot of nonsense,” and pointed to allegations of corruption across the US. He also said US governance, democracy, and human rights programmes — carrying a price tag of at least $1 million last year — were an attempt to influence Zimbabwe’s “democratic affairs”.

“Clearly, they want to influence our election processes, and that is unacceptable,” said the ambassador. “If USAID wants to send more people on missions like this without working directly with the government, they will face a similar fate.”

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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