Zimbabwe: DRC Deployment - Mugabe Did Not Consult Cabinet

Harare — CABINET and parliament as well as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were not consulted by President Robert Mugabe when he decided to deploy Zimbabwean troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of a Sadc peacekeeping force.

Sadc leaders decided to send 4 000 troops on a peacekeeping mission in eastern Congo after the regional bloc's Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Tanzania last weekend.

M23 rebels have sustained an eight-month siege of the eastern DRC and seized the provincial capital of Goma, before retreating less than two weeks after taking control of the strategic city end of November.

The rebels have been demanding direct talks with President Joseph Kabila.

They have retreated to Kibati, just 15kms from Goma, allowing the Congolese army to move back into Goma alongside a neutral force which Zimbabwe is sending its troops to join.

Zimbabwe immediately agreed to send troops to the war-torn mineral-rich country after an International Conference on the Great Lakes Region resolved to send regional peacekeepers.

This would be the second time Zimbabwe has deployed troops to the vast country following the 1998 mission which helped prevent the overthrow of the current president's father Laurent Kabila, after rebels had overrun the Congolese army from Goma right up to the capital Kinshasa.

Then, Mugabe unilaterally deployed the soldiers without consulting parliament, and to date no information on casualties or the cost of the deployment to Zimbabwe has ever been released.

Namibia, which helped the Congolese army alongside Zimbabwe and Angola to drive the rebels out of Kinshasa in 1998, has said it is not sending troops to the country again despite the Sadc decision.

According to The Namibian newspaper, the country's permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Veiccoh Nghiwete this week said Namibia was not sending troops to join the Sadc peacekeeping force, indicating there were other ways his country could assist without deploying its soldiers.

Finance minister Tendai Biti yesterday said there was no cabinet or even parliamentary approval to send troops to the DRC.

"This issue was not discussed in cabinet or parliament," said Biti.

"While it is good for Zimbabwe to help its brothers and sisters in the DRC as part of a peacekeeping mission, things must be done in terms of the constitution and the law. In this case, this was not done. We just read in the newspapers that Zimbabwe is sending troops to the DRC. Even though it's part of a Sadc resolution, we still need to follow the constitution and the law and not behave like warmongers."

Biti said Zimbabwe needs to first ensure peace, security and stability at home before rushing off to do that in other countries.

"We also need transparency in terms of the levels of troop deployments and funding. We don't want to go back to a situation like the one in 1998 when our army was deployed arbitrarily and without transparency and accountability," said Biti.

Permanent secretary in the Foreign Affairs ministry Joey Bimha said Sadc, the DRC government, the United Nations and African Union would fund the peacekeeping mission.

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