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US-Zim engagement at the US-Africa Leaders Summit 2022

Pearl Matibe

THE new reality, is that the United States President Joseph Biden adopted a foreign policy approach in which he has stipulated that the US-Africa Leaders Summit, which he convened in America's capital, Washington, 13-15 December, was principally about listening to African Leaders as well as voices which may not always enjoy an opportunity to interact with high-level government officials in his administration.

This is why the programme included an African and Diaspora Young Leaders Forum called: “Amplifying Voices: Building Partnerships that Last.”

The agenda was also made up of high-level fora, in which heads of State and government and heads of delegations attended. These include the "US-Africa Space Forum sought to leverage outer space to meet shared goals for the US-Africa relationship here on Earth. This forum included discussion on the use of space to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and capacity building, and the role of the private sector in supporting US-Africa partnership," according to the US Department of State.

Representing Zimbabwe was Frederick Shava, Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister, who also attended the Peace, Security and Governance Forum. According to a US Department of State spokesperson, who on Thursday, December 15, confirmed to White House Correspondent, Pearl Matibe, that minister Shava would have had multiple instances, occasions, space, freedom, and convenience of engaging with his counterparts — foreign ministers and heads of delegations — for engaging because, despite the State Department not having any new information on a US-Zimbabwe bilateral meeting, "Each delegation will have extensive opportunities for high-level engagement through plenary discussions, the head of State dinner, and side meetings. President Biden, Vice-President Harris, secretary Blinken, and other senior US government officials look forward to meaningful conversations with all the heads of delegation across the various sessions" — clearly a win for the Zimbabwean government, since an opportunity to show up is important to advancing the US-Zimbabwe relationship.

Shava attended President Biden's White House dinner, had a photo taken with his wife along with Biden and America's First Lady, Jill Biden. He also attended the business forum, food security discussions, and the the Peace, Security, and Governance Forum, which was themed: Delivering Democracy and Security Dividends. This session was chaired by two US Cabinet ministers, Defence Secretary Llyoyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the administrator for USAID, Samantha Powers. They discussed that, ”For example, security sector governance should focus on a holistic approach that involves managing reform processes within a framework of democratic control and oversight, involving a broad range of actors in and out of government, as well as nationally, regionally, locally, and multilaterally." According to the State Department, the "inter-ministerial approaches to security, the role of communities and other partners, areas of focus in next 6-12 months" was a goal of the forum Shava attended. 

At the end of the session, he shared his perspective with Matibe emphasising the training Zimbabwe is providing to Mozambique. "An attack on Mozambique, or any Sadc country, is an attack on all of us. It is for this reason that Zimbabwe is part of SAMIM that is trying to assist Mozambique to get rid of the menace in the Cabo Delgado province."

His view is that the multilateral role Sadc is playing in Mozambique is performing to his government's satisfaction. He explained that, "The fact that we are there shows our determination to assist Mozambique." Minister Shava detailed more on this issue stating that, "Zimbabwe, in particular, also plays a second role, as a trainer of Mozambicans."

Further, he added that, "We do train. We assist Mozambique to train their police and part of their army units so that they can take control of those areas which will have been freed of the menace in Cabo Delgado."

 The Sadc mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) is the multilateral body which has been providing military and extended support to Mozambique for approximately 17 months.

Although, Shava expressed disappointment with the recent addition of new sanctioned individuals added to the specially designated nationals and blocked persons list just before the Summit convened, he would have had assorted chances, means, and times to engage with the US government and its officials, including through Zimbabwe’s allies — regional and continental.

  •  Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based foreign correspondent, and media commentator with expertise on US foreign policy and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe

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