Face-off ,,, US official Elaine French and Zimbabwe's acting foreign secretary Rofina Chikava meeting in Harare on May 30, 2023

HARARE – The United States embassy in Harare has refused to back down over tweets urging Zimbabweans to register and vote after its top diplomat was summoned to a meeting at the foreign affairs ministry on Tuesday, accused of election interference.

“We stand by our recent media posts calling for peace during the election season,” US embassy spokesperson Meg Riggs told the Voice of America’s Studio 7.

“These neutral apolitical messages feature the work of Zimbabwean artists who wanted to engage their fellow youths on the importance of peace during the election process. Elections are a phenomenon part of a functioning democracy.”

Elaine French, the Charge d’Affaires at the US embassy in Harare, was summoned for a meeting with the acting foreign affairs secretary Rofina Chikava after the embassy posted a tweet urging Zimbabweans to “register to vote and make sure your voice is heard.”

A statement issued by the foreign ministry following the meeting said French “reiterated her mission’s commitment to improve its communication in line with expected diplomatic conduct.”

Chikava expressed concern over “election related-social media posts, bordering on activism and meddling in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs,” the ministry said.

“She stressed 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,” the statement added.

According to Riggs, the meeting “offered an opportunity for our two governments to articulate our policies and concerns.”

“It is the role of the embassy to communicate with the host nation government but it is also the role of the embassy to communicate with the people in each nation through traditional and social media including events that carry our educational, cultural and sports exchange programmes,” she said.

Maintaining that the United States does not support any single candidate or party, Riggs added: “We strongly support a transparent and peaceful process that reflects the will of the people of Zimbabwe.”

Zimbabweans vote in general elections in late August. Opposition parties accuse the ruling Zanu PF party and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission of frustrating potential voters in traditional opposition hotbeds in a bid to influence the vote. — ZimLive

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