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Tempers flare as Zim deports USAID workers

By Agencies

The United States on Friday strongly denounced Zimbabwe’s government for allegedly harassing, detaining and deporting US aid workers on a human rights project.

In the incident last month, “several” US government officials and contractors were targeted in Zimbabwe while working to assess a proposed initiative on civic participation, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said.

Some were detained overnight, transported in “unsafe” conditions and had their electronic devices seized before they were forced to leave Zimbabwe, USAID said.

“As we have made clear in the strongest possible terms to the government of Zimbabwe, these actions against a team of development professionals legally admitted to Zimbabwe to support the government of Zimbabwe’s expressed commitment to democratic reform, are egregious, unjustified and unacceptable,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

The United States went public with the incident days after it announced sanctions on top Zimbabwean officials including President Emmerson Mnangagwa over human rights and corruption concerns.

The Biden administration at the same time rescinded a broad, two-decade-old sanctions program, saying it was outdated and that it wanted to be clear it was targeting leaders and not Zimbabwe as a whole.

“We will continue to robustly support civil society, human rights defenders and independent media and — as seen through our recent targeted sanctions — will not hesitate to take additional measures to hold accountable those who deny Zimbabweans fundamental freedoms and good governance,” USAID Administrator Samantha Power said.

Zimbabwe’s late longtime leader Robert Mugabe became a pariah in the West over his assertive grip on power and the forced takeover of land from white farmers.

Hopes of a thaw with Zimbabwe briefly surfaced after Mnangagwa pushed Mugabe out of power in 2017, but Western powers and rights groups say the government remains intolerant to opposition and protests.

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