Zimbabwe summons US envoy in protest over sanctions on diplomat

2019-08-03 10:59
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Zimbabwe on Friday summoned the US ambassador to Harare to protest US travel sanctions imposed on its envoy to Tanzania over his alleged role in a military crackdown that left six civilians dead last year.

Anselem Sanyatwe, former commander of the presidential guard, is accused of commanding soldiers who opened fire on unarmed demonstrators protesting a delay in the release of last year's election results.

The foreign affairs ministry said in a statement that it had "summoned" the US ambassador to Harare Brian Nichols "to express the displeasure" of the government following the US sanctions.

"The decision by Washington is regrettable as it comes at a time when government is intensifying the implementation of political and economic reforms," including recommendations by a commission of inquiry into the killings, the ministry said. 

The US flagged Sanyatwe on its sanctions list, barring him from entering the country over what it called "his involvement in gross violations of human rights".

Zimbabwe government spokesperson Nick Mangwana expressed "strong displeasure" at the US decision saying it undermined Zimbabwe's sovereignty.

He said the action was "posturing meant to fan divisions rather than initiate national healing and understanding".

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over after the ouster of Robert Mugabe in 2017, has sought to break away from the brutality of the former dictator's rule. But the shootings have triggered international outrage.

Mnangagwa appointed a commission, led by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, into the fatal shooting.

The inquest report blamed the military and police saying the use of live fire was "unjustified and disproportionate".

In applying the sanctions, the US said it has "credible information" that Sanyatwe was involved in the violent crackdown during post-election protests on August 1, 2018 - days after the July 30 elections.

It said not one member of the security forces has been held accountable for the violence.

Sanyatwe becomes the first Zimbabwean to be sanctioned by the US since the end of the Mugabe era in November 2017.

Earlier this year the US extended, by another year, sanctions first imposed in 2003 on more than 100 individuals and entities - including President Mnangagwa and Mugabe - over human rights abuses and undermining Zimbabwe's democratic processes.

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