Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is expected to come face-to-face with his French counterpart Francois Hollande in Mali on Saturday to discuss the diplomatic tiff that emerged following anti-Mugabe protests held in some parts of the southern African country last year.
Harare alleged, at the time, that Paris sponsored opposition groups in Zimbabwe to destabilise Mugabe's government.
Both Hollande and Mugabe were attending the two-day 27th edition of the French Africa-Summit that kicked off on Friday in the Malian capital, Bamako. The summit was expected to tackle issues related to peace and security, cyber-crime, terrorism, human and drug trafficking, migration and other issues affecting France and the African continent.
An official at the French Embassy in Harare told News24 on condition of anonymity that Mugabe and Hollande were expected to hold "one-on-one talks" on the sidelines of the summit, adding that the French president was clear in his mind that Zimbabwe's political problems would be resolved by Zimbabwean people.
Two-day national shutdown
"The two leaders are likely to hold a private meeting tomorrow and those allegations levelled against our government by the host government may be discussed if President Mugabe brings those issues to the table because we understand that the host government still believes that we had a hand in protests that took place (in Zimbabwe) last year. Those allegations triggered a diplomatic row between our two countries," said the embassy official.
"President Hollande has nothing to hide because our government's hands are clean. We have no right to get angry on behalf of Zimbabweans; the Zimbabwean people know what is right or bad for them and they will address their issues at their own time but it's not for the French government to tell them how to resolve their matters and at no time did we finance the opposition movement to revolt against Mr Mugabe's government," the official said.
At the height of anti-government demonstrations staged in Zimbabwe last year, Mugabe's government accused France and the United States of America of sponsoring the street protests.
The protests took place in country for the better part of 2016, including the two-day national shutdown held in July that was being led by social movements such as #Tajamuka and #ThisFlag. Following the protests, Zimbabwean authorities arrested a number of activists and charged them with public violence. Many of them were yet to be cleared by the courts.
Home Affairs Minister Ignatious Chombo then accused France and US ambassadors in Harare, Laurent Delahousse and Harry Thomas, respectively, of meeting leaders of the protests and providing funds for them to stage the anti-government demonstrations. But the diplomats denied any involvement. -- News24