Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe through state media Monday issued a diatribe against the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, following their meeting last week at African Union summit in Libya, calling him "an idiot."
In comments published by the state-controlled Herald newspaper, Mr. Mugabe said he was incensed with Carson, who he said displayed a “condescending attitude” when they met.
“Who is he? I hope he was not speaking for” U.S. President Barack Obama, Mr. Mugabe was quoted as saying. “You wouldn’t speak to an idiot of that nature,” Mugabe said of Carson. "I was very angry with him, and he thinks he could dictate to us what to do.”
State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly declined to respond specifically to Mr. Mugabe's remarks. But, "our concerns about Mr. Mugabe are well known," he said.
"I have tremendous respect for Assistant Secretary Carson," Kelly told reporters. "He is our most experienced diplomat in African affairs. He's one of the most talented people we have. And I don't see why anybody would have, could use those, kinds of characterizations."
Mr. Mugabe addressed similarly insulting remarks last year to Carson’s predecessor, Jendayi Frazer.
Political analyst Glen Mpani of the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa, said Mr. Mugabe’s comments were intended to undermine Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s efforts to revitalize ties with Washington.
Mr. Tsvangirai met with the U.S. President Barack Obama last month in Washington in a bit to restore relations between Washington and Harare which deteriorated over the past decade as the previous U.S. administration criticized Mr. Mugabe's record on human rights among other issues, imposing targeted sanctions against the president and his inner circle.
Elsewhere, U.S ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee departed the country Sunday without the final interview with President Mugabe he had requested. McGee is to be succeeded in Harare by career diplomat Charles Ray.
In a recent interview, the outbound McGee told reporter Blessing Zulu that the Zimbabwean people had to stand up for themselves and demand better government.
Elsewhere, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told journalists in Gweru, the Midlands capital, that state media continued to serve partisan interests and was failing to fulfill its mandate of service to the public, reported Studio 7 correspondent Taurai Shava.