13 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Troops Heading to DRC, Again

An official within ZANU PF has confirmed that troops from Zimbabwe will once again be heading to the war ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo, this time as part of a peacekeeping force under the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Over the weekend SADC leaders meeting in Tanzania and resolved to contribute 4,000 troops to a neutral peacekeeping force to be deployed in eastern Congo. President Joseph Kabila is reportedly fighting off a strong offensive from the M23 rebels.

According to Newsday newspaper the permanent secretary for Foreign Affairs, Joey Bimha, confirmed that Zimbabwean troops would be going to the DRC. He explained that SADC had made the decision to send what they are calling a 'Standby Force'.

Bimha also confirmed that the mission would be funded by Kabila's government, with assistance from the United Nations and the African Union. They would operate under the banner of the UN and the AU.

Bimha provided no other details as to the number of Zimbabwean troops that would participate in the mission, when they would be deployed, or what their assignment would entail. He simply referred further questions to Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Newsday quoted Bimha as saying: "There is an agreement by SADC and Zimbabwe, as a member, is bound by it".

Giles Mutsekwa, the MDC-T Secretary for Defence, told SW Radio Africa his party only knew what has been reported in the local press but supports SADC in any regional efforts to maintain peace.

Mutsekwa added: "If this is indeed a decision by SADC, it is in conformity with what we agreed as a member state that we would contribute troops to the SADC Brigade. We in the MDC-T are in agreement that we support SADC to ensure that there is peace in the region."

Mutsekwa said he had strongly opposed Zimbabwe's first mission to the DRC back in 1998, because it, "was not necessary, cost us a fortune as a nation and we did not reap any rewards from it".

He added: "As you know our military hardware was expanded, the economy took a nose dive and the troops themselves had a very difficult time. But that was when we deployed the troops as a single country."

In 1998 Robert Mugabe sent Zim soldiers to the DRC saying we were protecting President Laurent Kabila from rebel troops. Top government officials, including the late army General Solomon Mujuru, received mining concessions as a reward for helping Kabila.

Although a coalition government is in place this time around, Mutsekwa said the current constitution allows Mugabe to send the troops, without consulting parliament.

This was disputed by political analyst Professor John Makumbe, who said the current constitution is not relevant because of the Global Political Agreement brokered by SADC itself. Makumbe explained that according to the GPA, which is Amendment 19, Mugabe must consult the other principals before deploying troops.

"The MDC-T should make political capital out of this SADC mission and insist that Mugabe consult them before sending any troops out of the country," Makumbe stressed.

The Professor said this so-called peacekeeping mission will end up involving fighting against the M23 rebels and Zimbabwe will end up incurring more costs that SADC can pay for.

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