Zim troops for DRC?

HARARE - Zimbabwe may redeploy its troops to the eastern front of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to strengthen President Joseph Kabila's shaky defence lines and stem rebel advances as renewed fighting in the area intensifies.

Information in our possession shows that Mugabe received the DRC President’s special advisor, Katumba Mwake, last week requesting a battalion to be immediately dispatched to the DRC to repel rebel attacks led by war lord and renegade ex-General, Laurent Nkunda.

Official sources said Mwake told Mugabe that despite a long-standing peace deal, successful recent elections and the presence of the world’s largest peacekeeping operation, the situation remained precarious in the east.

There was a serious threat to President Kabila (Jnr)’s throne from the marauding rebels, threatening to overthrow the youthful President.

The meeting was attended by Mugabe, Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono and Defence minister Sydney Sekeremayi.

Official sources said Mwake told the meeting that a group of Hutu rebels from neighbouring Rwanda , the Interahamwe militia, were the biggest threat to civilian lives and had literally become a law unto themselves.

But the biggest threat was the now notorious Bravo Brigade – a Congolese militia who refuse to be integrated into the national army. The militia wears the uniforms of regular government soldiers but remain loyal to their own leader, General Nkunda.

Mwake reportedly communicated fears of Kabila (Jnr) to Mugabe that the United Nations mandate in DRC will last only until the end of this year and nothing is guaranteed after that.

Zimbabwe’s intervention as an allied force to fill the void that will be left by the UN peacekeeping troops was absolutely necessary, Mwake told Mugabe.

The Zimbabwean heard that government was planning to dispatch the 1.1 Infantry Battalion based at Induna Barracks in Bulawayo to the Congo war front. A Zimbabwean battalion has up to 1,000 soldiers.

Military sources said the latest developments in the conflict, which has degenerated into a war of attrition, had also prompted government to put on standby more specialised combat soldiers from 1 Commando based at Cranborne Barracks.

While troops have been moving up and down from the Congo on routine rotational schedules, sources pointed out the current movements included new deployments. Zimbabwean troops are still stationed in Kabila’s Presidential Guard.

Mugabe was said to have lent a sympathetic ear to the plea.

During the late 90s, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and its supremos, notably General Vitalis Zvinavashe, were involved in billion-dollar deals in DRC companies such as Sengamines, Oryx Diamonds Limited and Osleg Private Limited.

A UN report implicated senior ruling party officials such as Emmerson Mnangagwa in the looting and plunder of DRC resources during the campaign.

The DRC conflict has been dubbed the new scramble for Africa. Zanu (PF) is currently holding on to deals it cut during the previous campaign such as the $16 billion logging operation, reportedly bringing in profits of over $2 billion each year to Zanu (PF). – Own correspondent

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