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Dell sought ways to camouflage US democracy programme

United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell suggested that US organisations should seek ways of camouflaging their support for democracy and governance programme in Zimbabwe because the Zimbabwean government seemed to be tracking these activities.

Dell’s comments followed a story in the Sunday Mail which claimed that Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and a group of senior party officials had gone to Zambia to meet officials of Freedom House, which it described as a US-funded organisation headed by former Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigations agents.

According to Dell, “the allegations as written are false. There is no FH program on Zimbabwe, although one has been proposed. The MDC was trying to arrange a meeting with its IRI media consultant, which at our suggestion they had agreed to hold outside of the country”.

But he added: “It is also possible that the articles are total spin that accidentally came close to the mark”.

“We have anticipated negative publicity of this sort with respect to our democracy and governance program for some time. While in this instance, the GOZ got it wrong, it highlights the extent to which they are tracking our support for Zimbabwe’s democratic forces and underscores the importance of operational security when discussing the proposed Freedom House program and other DG activities.

“We recommend that in future USG agencies avoid discussing these sensitive activities other than by classified means or face-to-face meetings. However, despite our best precautionary efforts, we can expect future GOZ efforts along these lines. With that in mind, we also recommend that we give serious consideration to partnering FH with a credible regional NGO, such as Idasa in South Africa, that is readily accepted by its local government and can help diffuse the U.S. role in support of Zimbabwe’s civil society.”

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 06HARARE124, GOZ CASTS MDC’S ZAMBIA EXCURSION AS USG PLOTTING

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

06HARARE124

2006-02-06 13:53

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000124

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. NEULING

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE

AFR/SA FOR E. LOKEN

COMMERCE FOR BECKY ERKUL

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2011

TAGS: PREL KPAO ASEC PHUM PGOV ZI MDC

SUBJECT: GOZ CASTS MDC’S ZAMBIA EXCURSION AS USG PLOTTING

 

REF: (A) DERDERIAN-MOZENA 2/3 E-MAIL (B)

DAYTON-NEULING 2/2 E-MAIL (C) HARARE 112

(D) HARARE 74 (E) 05 HARARE 1681

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.4 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (C) Following Zambia’s expulsion of a delegation of

senior MDC officials on February 2 (refs A, B), Zimbabwe’s

state media has alleged that the U.S. Embassy had arranged a

meeting in Zambia between the delegation and “officials from

US-funded Freedom House”. The articles appear to be part of

a broader GOZ campaign to target Zimbabwe,s democratic

forces and our assistance to them. The allegations are

false. In fact, there is currently no Freedom House program,

though one has been proposed. That said, the articles are

indicative of the extent to which the government fears our

D/G program. We therefore recommend that discussion of the

program be confined to classified means and that we seek a

regional partner for Freedom House,s putative program. We

also recommend that the Department respond to press inquiries

(Para 6). End Summary.

 

—————

GOZ Allegations

—————

 

2. (U) Under a February 5 headline “CIA behind MDC safari to

Zambia”, the GOZ-controlled Sunday Mail alleged that a

“highly placed MDC source” confirmed that Morgan Tsvangirai

and a group of senior party officials had gone to Zambia to

meet officials of Freedom House (FH), which the paper alleged

was US-funded and headed by “former CIA and FBI agents.” The

article, also alleged that the meeting, which involved a

Kenyan named Samuel Mark Imende, had been arranged with the

assistance of Embassy Harare. With a headline “Government

probes MDC”, the official Herald on February 6 featured

Security/Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa outlining GOZ plans to

launch an investigation.

 

3. (C) The articles appear to be the latest salvo in an

escalating GOZ campaign against Zimbabwe,s democratic

opposition and our assistance to them. Starting with the

heightened rhetoric of December’s ZANU-PF National Conference

(ref E) against NGOs, this campaign has seen arrests and

death threats against prominent activists (refs C, D). In

the media, it has meant stepped up coverage of alleged

Western espionage and overseas “interference” in other

countries’ internal affairs, with particular attention paid

to developments in Russia and the Russian government,s

impending crackdown on NGOs.

 

4. (C) We have not as yet been able to get a full readout

from the MDC on what actually occurred in Zambia. The

allegations as written are false. There is no FH program on

Zimbabwe, although one has been proposed. The MDC was trying

to arrange a meeting with its IRI media consultant, which at

our suggestion they had agreed to hold outside of the

country. However, the Kenyan with whom Tsvangirai and the

MDC delegation allegedly met is unknown to us. It is

possible that the GOZ heard something about FH from its MDC

sources or from monitoring phone conversations and in this

instance is conflating FH and IRI. It is also possible that

the articles are total spin that accidentally came close to

the mark.

 

——————–

Post Recommendations

——————–

 

5. (C) We have anticipated negative publicity of this sort

with respect to our democracy and governance program for some

time. While in this instance, the GOZ got it wrong, it

highlights the extent to which they are tracking our support

for Zimbabwe,s democratic forces and underscores the

importance of operational security when discussing the

proposed Freedom House program and other DG activities. We

recommend that in future USG agencies avoid discussing these

sensitive activities other than by classified means or

face-to-face meetings. However, despite our best

precautionary efforts, we can expect future GOZ efforts along

these lines. With that in mind, we also recommend that we

give serious consideration to partnering FH with a credible

regional NGO, such as Idasa in South Africa, that is readily

accepted by its local government and can help diffuse the

U.S. role in support of Zimbabwe’s civil society.

 

————–

Press Guidance

————–

 

6. (C) The allegations are drawing international press

attention. We recommend that the Department issue a

statement playing on the state media’s long record of

exaggeration and fabrication (USG responsible for HIV/AIDS,

drought, etc.) in dismissing this latest effort. To that end

we provide the following points:

 

— Contrary to reports from Zimbabwe’s state media, the U.S.

Embassy was not involved in the arrangement of alleged

meetings between the MDC and Freedom House in Zambia last

week.

 

— The Government-controlled media,s charges are consistent

with the regime,s long-standing practice of fabricating

stories about perceived enemies rather than addressing

fundamental obligations of good governance.

 

— We urge the Government to deal honestly with the nation’s

problems, engage all of Zimbabwe’s democratic elements, and

return to a path of international engagement that will permit

us to work together to restore the suffering country’s

stability and prosperity.

 

— (If asked) Consistent with applicable legal requirements,

the USG supports a broad range of activities and

organizations in Zimbabwe that advance democracy and rule of

law.

DELL

(19 VIEWS)

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