HARARE – Zimbabwe has been invited to the second United States-Africa Leaders Summit in December – but President Emmerson Mnangagwa cannot attend due to personal travel sanctions for his role in undermining democracy and rights abuses.
An invitation was sent to foreign affairs minister Fredrick Shava, only appointed to the role in 2021 and not subject to travel restrictions.
All African countries with diplomatic relations with the United States are invited to the gathering in Washington, DC from December 13-15.
Zimbabwe was snubbed for the inaugural summit in 2014, a year after then President Robert Mugabe won re-election in a disputed poll. Mugabe was ousted in a military coup in November 2017, and Mnangagwa took over.
Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba appeared to suggest the United States only invited Zimbabwe following pressure from other African countries.
“SADC insisted that all its members should participate or else. Otherwise, the United States is escalating its hostile actions against Zimbabwe,” Charamba claimed.
US President Joe Biden has told advisers he wants a “broadly inclusive summit.”
“There are countries across the continent which struggle and are challenged on the democracy and governance side,” Dana Banks, the White House point person for the summit, said. “But it’s important to have those conversations, right? You have to be able to talk about your concerns… That is the mature engagement that we are seeking with our African partners.”
Livit Mugejo, a spokesman for Zimbabwe’s foreign affairs ministry said they were “in continuous re-engagement with the United States and any other Western country.”
“Hence, the invitation for the minister to attend the summit provides another opportunity for the government to continue with its re-engagement efforts,” he said.
On September 15, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jim Risch of Idaho, said: “The admin should… carefully consider who is invited to the US-Africa Summit. If the admin insists it must invite a government representative from Zimbabwe, it should look for someone who has a less abysmal human rights, corruption, and democracy record than the foreign minister.”
The United States has been leaning on Zimbabwe’s government to end repression against critics ahead of general elections next year.
“It is imperative that Zanu PF allow full participation across the political spectrum in next year’s elections,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said last week. “The United States continues to stand with the Zimbabwean people against unjust actions against political opponents or assaults on Zimbabwe’s democracy by the Zanu PF.”
In July, Biden said the summit “will demonstrate the United States’ enduring commitment to Africa, and will underscore the importance of U.S.-Africa relations and increased cooperation on shared global priorities.”
He added: “The summit will build on our shared values to better foster new economic engagement; reinforce the U.S.-Africa commitment to democracy and human rights; mitigate the impact of Covid-19 and of future pandemics; work collaboratively to strengthen regional and global health; promote food security; advance peace and security; respond to the climate crisis; and amplify diaspora ties.”