The United States is "deeply concerned" over reported human rights abuses being carried out by Zimbabwe's security forces against civilians, a top official said on Friday.
Tibor Nagy, the United States' top diplomat for Africa, demanded that those responsible for killings, arbitrary detentions, assaults, and rape be held to account.
In the strongest statement yet by President Donald Trump government official since President Emmerson Mnangagwa came into power in November 2017, Nagy tweeted: "The U.S. is deeply concerned about continued reports of human rights violations in Zimbabwe. We call on the government to respect human rights, hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and immediately end all violence by government forces."
On Thursday, Mnangagwa defended the deployment of soldiers to suppress rising anti-government anger which boiled over when the Zanu PF leader decreed a 168 percent increase in the price of fuel on January 12.
Mnangagwa told reporters that he regretted the killings carried out by the military but claimed the deployment of troops was necessary "to protect
property as well as other citizens not involved in the protests."
"We have told the Western countries that they cannot turn around and raise concerns when they are the ones sponsoring the violence," he said in apparent reference to the United States and Britain.
Rights groups say over a dozen people have been killed, over 250 required hospital treatment and nearly a 1,000 others have been arrested following the protests. Of the injured, nearly a 100 people had suffered gunshot wounds.
Britain's Minister for Africa Harriet Baldwin arrived in the region on Thursday, and held meetings with South African officials seeking to nudge President Cyril Ramaphosa to speak up on the developing crisis in Zimbabwe.
She travelled to Mozambique on Friday, and Zimbabwe again featured in discussions with government officials.
Before leaving the UK, Baldwin told Parliament that "the recent events in Zimbabwe are of significant concern."
"We believe that the response by Zimbabwe's security forces to protests against the petrol price rise has been disproportionate," she said.
"We've been absolutely clear that these abuses and the failure to follow the due process of law contravenes the fundamental tenets of international human rights standards and have absolutely no place in a democratic society. It is vital that Zimbabwe's political leaders focus on what is doing the best for their people with all parties rejecting violence and upholding the rule of law."