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16 Sep, 2021 15:53

With Minsk hoping to build ties with Harare, Belarus’ Lukashenko praises Zimbabwe as ‘example’ of political stability & progress

With Minsk hoping to build ties with Harare, Belarus’ Lukashenko praises Zimbabwe as ‘example’ of political stability & progress

Despite problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Zimbabwe has kept political stability while pushing ahead with economic progress, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told his counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday.

Lukashenko's statement comes less than a month after Belarus revealed it would open its embassy in Zimbabwe, its first for the year. In the last year, as a result of allegedly rigged elections and the violent treatment of protesters, Minsk's relationship with the West has significantly deteriorated, and the authorities are now looking to other parts of the world for allies.

Despite the closening ties between the two countries, President Lukashenko's comments will come as a surprise to many, especially as Zimbabwe is only just beginning to make its way out of a two-year-long recession.

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"Despite the temporary difficulties caused by the global pandemic, the country remains an example of political stability and economic progress," Lukashenko said, in a message congratulating Mnangagwa on his 79th birthday.

"It's hard to overestimate your personal contribution to building and strengthening Zimbabwe."

Mnangagwa became president of Zimbabwe in 2017 after a coup d'etat ousting Robert Mugabe, a dictator who had led the country since the 1980s. Mnangagwa has been criticized for violently cracking down on dissent and arresting journalists who have spoken out against his rule. Earlier this year, US Ambassador in Harare Brian Nichols called on the government to stop "arbitrary arrests to silence critics."

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Lukashenko himself has come under similar criticism in the last twelve months. Last year, following his victory in the country's presidential election, he was accused by the opposition of rigging the results. In the months following the votes, large demonstrations were held regularly around the country, and police used tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets to disperse protestors. Many were also arrested.

Earlier this year, a Belarusian delegation, including Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikolay Borisevich, visited Zimbabwe for trade negotiations. While there, the group handed over a batch of Belarusian forestry and firefighting machinery.

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