George Floyd protests: Stop interfering in our affairs, America tells little Zimbabwe

Robert O'Brien (right), with Trump: He says Zimbabwe working against the US (pic: Reuters)

It sounds like a parody, but it’s not. It is usually Zimbabwe claiming American interference in its internal affairs. Now, it is America’s turn.

President Donald Trump’s top national security advisor has named Zimbabwe among “foreign adversaries” that he accuses of trying to use raging race protests in the US against America.

Appearing in an interview on the ABC news channel, Robert O’Brien was asked to respond to a tweet by Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the US Senate’s intelligence committee, which pointed to “heavy social media activity” from three adversaries.

In response, O’Brien mentioned Russia, China, Iran and Zimbabwe as countries that he claimed are the adversaries working against the US.

Violence has erupted in multiple American cities after a white policeman murdered a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis.

“Senator Rubio is right, and I’ve seen a number of tweets from the Chinese today that are taking pleasure and solace in what they are seeing here. I want to tell our foreign adversaries, whether it’s a Zimbabwe or a China, that the difference between us and you is that that officer who killed George Floyd, he’ll be investigated, prosecuted, and he’ll receive a fair trial,” Obrien said.

“The American people that want to go out and protest peacefully, they are going to be allowed to seek redress from their government, they’re not going to be thrown in jail for peaceful protesting. There’s a difference between us and you.”

He went on: “Rubio is 100% that our foreign adversaries are going to try to sow discord, and we’re not going to let that happen.”

O’Brien was asked by ABC what the US would do to counter those adversaries, “as they try to foment more unrest here in the United States; China, Russia, you mentioned Zimbabwe”. O’Brien, in response, said: “Iran has been active in this realm as well. And we’ve got a number of tools in our toolkits, working very close with our allies…there will be a response and it will be proportional. This is not something that our adversaries are gonna get away with for free.”

O’Brien said a space launch from Florida on Saturday showed how united America remains.

In a separate interview on CNN, O’Brien said there was no systemic racism in the USA, and that the policeman who killed Floyd was just a lone “bad apple”.

Zimbabwe has had a frosty relationship with the US since 2002, when America imposed sanctions on the country; the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act in 2001 and an executive order of measures that came into effect a year later. The US says those measures were taken in response to Zimbabwe’s human rights abuses, but Zimbabwe argues this was punishment for land reform.

[Click to read: Special Report – US sanctions on Zimbabwe: truths, history, and lies]

Attempts by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to mend relations – including hiring expensive lobbyists in Washington – have not worked, as the US has become even more strident in its criticism of Zimbabwe over the past two years.

Most recently, the US sharply criticised Zimbabwe over the abduction of three MDC ativists. Tibor Nagy, the US’s top diplomat for Africa, called it a “cowardly abduction and abuse”.

It is unclear what triggered O’Brien’s mention of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean government has not made any official comments on the Floyd killing or the protests that have followed.

However, presidential spokesman George Charamba has trolled the US in a series of tweets, including one in which he calls for Zimbabwe to summon the US ambassador to “explain the goings-on in the US”.

While showing how poor Zimbabwe’s position remains in Washington, O’Brien’s remarks are likely to feed ZANU-PF’s propaganda machinery, which has long claimed Zimbabwe is singled out by America.