The U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray, was unable to address a meeting in central Zimbabwe as rowdy members of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party disrupted the gathering.
Ambassador Ray was meeting in central Zimbabwe Wednesday with members of a group known as Zimbabwe Youth in Politics.
Before the gathering could get started, witnesses say a group of ZANU-PF activists arrived and made so much noise and disturbance that the meeting had to be called off.
The group jeered the ambassador and tossed and waved anti-U.S. literature around the scene.
The meeting had been cleared in advance with the police, according to Ambassador Ray, but he said it was “disrupted.” Witnesses said the ambassador walked towards the group during the disturbances.
The ambassador later said in a statement that “elements of the security sector and some political parties remain afraid of allowing a free exchange of ideas.”
Witnesses at the meeting said some of the ZANU-PF activists are well known in the area, and are loyal to a senior ZANU-PF minister in Zimbabwe’s inclusive government. The fragile government, which has plagued with tension, includes members of ZANU-PF and its rival, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
There was no one at the information department at the local police headquarters able to answer questions Thursday.
ZANU-PF regularly accuses the United States of interfering in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.
U.S. officials have repeatedly condemned President Mugabe and his party for human rights abuses, while rights groups accuse them of trying to intimidate and suppress political opponents, including top officials in the MDC. voa