Zimbabwe has accused the US of fanning divisions after travel sanctions were imposed on its ambassador to Tanzania, an ex-presidential guard who allegedly commanded troops who killed six civilians in a post-election protest last year.
Anselem Sanyatwe is the first Zimbabwean official to be put on the US sanctions list since Robert Mugabe was forced to step down as president in November 2017. The diplomat and his wife are now barred from travelling to the US.
“It is our position that sanctions imposed on our country are illegal and any escalation of the same is counterproductive,” said Zimbabwe government spokesman Nick Mangwana in a statement.
The US said it had “credible information” that Mr Sanyatwe was involved in the violent crackdown on 1 August 2018 and that the government of Zimbabwe had “held no member of the security forces accountable for the acts of violence”.
A US State Department spokesperson tweeted that the decision had been taken on the first anniversary of the shootings.
Mr Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa – who narrowly won the 30 July 2018 disputed vote – set up an independent commission to look into the shootings in the capital, Harare, which took place two days after the vote.
It found that the army had acted disproportionately when it fired on fleeing demonstrators, but it blamed some opposition figures for inciting the violence.
It recommended the government pay compensation to the families of the victims and to the dozens of people who were also injured in the protests.
Mr Mangwana said the country took “serious umbrage” at the US move which was “clearly out of sync with the spirit and letter of the commission whose work was public and credible”.
He warned that although President Mnangagwa had adopted “a policy of rapprochement” with the West since coming to power it was not a “policy of appeasement”.
Last month, the US also imposed travel sanctions on certain Nigerian politicians it did not name, for “undermining democracy” during elections held earlier this year.