Mnangagwa in East and North African diplomatic “blitzkrieg”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa left Harare late Friday for Addis Ababa Ethiopia for an African Union (AU) meeting with reports he will take advantage of this trip to launch a diplomatic offensive that will take him to four countries.

Although details were sketchy, the Zimbabwe Morning Post is reliably informed that Mnangagwa whose envoys have been criss-crossing the continent in the aftermath of the violent protests that rocked the country in mid-January was targeting four key countries in East and North Africa.

“The President will travel to Addis Ababa, Kigali (Rwanda), Nairobi (Kenya) and Cairo (Egypt) for bilateral meetings and to make sure these key countries in East and North Africa understand what is happening in the country,” a source close to Mnangagwa told Zimbabwe Morning Post.

Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri (Rtd Air Marshall) was in Nairobi early this week where he met President Uhuru Kenyatta ahead of Mnangagwa’s visit.

Another envoy Christopher Mutsvangwa was in Zambia while former Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa was in Botswana where he met current Sadc chairperson Hage Geingob and the regional body’s executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax.

Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo travelled ahead of Mnangagwa and early yesterday (Thursday) met AU chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. The Zimbabwean leader is expected to meet Faki and other African leaders during the visit.

Deadly protests broke out in Harare for the second time inside six month and left at least 12 people dead according to the Human Rights NGO-Forum.

The army was deployed and is accused of having used live ammunition after protesters overran police stations including an incident in which a policeman was stoned to death in Bulawayo. The protests were the second since August last year when post election violence left six people dead in Harare after Mnangagwa deployed the army.

The Zanu PF leader was forced to set-up a commission of inquiry headed by former South African leader Kgalema Mothlante which found the military guilty of using disproportionate force to quell the disturbances.

Mnangagwa has defended the use of the army but early this week the military announced a crackdown that followed the January protests organized by labour federation the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions had ended and soldiers would return to their barracks. Human rights groups have claimed the army has been involved in a litany of abuses including rape during the crackdown.

Government also wants Sadc and AU support for its call to have sanctions imposed on former President Mugabe’s administration by the United States in particular lifted. Mnangagwa was a key figure in Mugabe’s government and served as both Minister and Vice President until his sacking on November 6 2017 before his triumphant return two weeks later following the military intervention.