The Zimbabwe government said it summoned the acting U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe over an ad urging citizens in the southern African nation to register to vote.
In a statement late Tuesday, Livit Mugejo, spokesman for Zimbabwe's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Elaine French, the Charge d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Harare, had been summoned by Harare over several advertisements shared on social media this month by the U.S. Embassy.
Mugejo said, "The most notable post was captioned: 'Register to vote and make sure your voice is heard,' among other tweets."
Mugejo said French met with Rofina Chikava, Zimbabwe's acting secretary for foreign affairs, who "expressed concern over the [U.S.] mission's election related-social media posts, bordering on activism and meddling in Zimbabwe's internal affairs."
Meg Riggs, the spokeswoman for the U S. Embassy in Harare, confirmed the meeting between French and Chikava and said there was no problem with the ads, which irked Zimbabwe.
"We stand by our recent social media posts calling for peace during the election season," said Riggs. "These neutral apolitical messages feature the work of Zimbabwean artists who wanted to engage their fellow youths on the importance of peace during an electoral process."
"Elections are a fundamental part of a functioning democracy. All Zimbabweans deserve this chance to choose their future safely," added Riggs. "...Our embassy will continue to urge peace, transparency and inclusivity in Zimbabwe."
Alexander Rusero, who heads the International Relations Studies at Africa University in Zimbabwe, said President Emmerson Mnangagwa was justified in summoning French.
"An embassy is simply situated in a country within the interests of furthering the host country's interests. Not necessarily bothered by internal dynamics of that state," said Rusero. "So, there are no relations that are going to be strained because the Americans, they are better placed to know what diplomacy entails."
President Mnangagwa has not yet announced the date for the elections, expected in August.