Question: Your Ambassador in Zimbabwe had been prevented from speaking, apparently, two days ago by partisans of President Mugabe. Do you have any comment on that?
Answer: On January 16, U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe David Bruce Wharton was on his first visit to Manicaland province to observe USAID projects and meet with businesspeople, academics, local authorities, and citizens. Roughly 130 ZANU-PF protestors gathered at the Turner Memorial Library in Mutare, where the Ambassador was scheduled to deliver remarks. Ambassador Wharton spent about 15 to 20 minutes listening to their messages but the protestors refused to engage in constructive conversation.
While the right to peaceful protest is a critical element of democracy, we regret that the protestors were not willing to engage in a more constructive manner. The United States recognizes the critical need to work together to build a way forward but believes that this must begin with a respectful sharing of ideas. We call on the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure the safety and security of diplomatic personnel, and to condemn the harassment and intimidation of peaceful exchanges between the U.S. and the Zimbabwean people.