Zimbabwe's ruling party labels US ambassador a 'thug'

Zimbabwe's ruling party labels US ambassador a 'thug'
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Zimbabwe's ruling political party, the ZANU-PF, is threatening the U.S. ambassador with expulsion over claims that he funded anti-government protests within the country.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the ZANU-PF referred to Ambassador Brian Nichols as part of a “coterie of gangsters,” accusing him of “mobilizing and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training insurgency."

"Our leadership will not hesitate to give him marching orders," the party added. “Diplomats should not behave like thugs, and Brian Nichols is a thug.”

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The assistant secretary of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of African Affairs, Tibor Nagy, fired back in a tweet calling the party's statement "deeply offensive."

"We have summoned the Ambassador of Zimbabwe to explain," Nagy said.

ZANU-PF was previously the party of the country's long-running leader, Robert Mugabe, prior to his death in 2017. 

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It chose Emmerson Mnangagwa to replace Mugabe, and Mnangagwa currently serves as the country's third president since its majority-white government was overthrown in 1980.

Activists have been raising pressure on Mnangagwa amid allegations of corruption and serious economic trouble for the southern African nation, and the U.S. Embassy in Harare has repeatedly called on the government in recent weeks to respect human rights. 

Under Mugabe, Western ambassadors were regularly threatened with expulsion.