Zimbabwe to send troops to DRCBy KITSEPILE NYATHI in Harare | Thursday, December 13 2012 at 16:07
Zimbabwe will contribute soldiers to a joint Southern African Development Community (SADC) peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a government official has said.
SADC leaders agreed at a summit in Tanzania last week that the regional bloc will deploy 4,000 troops in eastern DRC where the M23 rebels have launched a serious offensive against President Joseph Kabila.
There were doubts that Zimbabwe would contribute troops after the 1998 intervention at the invitation of the late DRC leader Laurent Kabila ended in acrimony.
President Kabila has reportedly refused to repay the $1 billion debt Zimbabwe says it incurred through lost military hardware during the intervention.
Namibia, which intervened alongside Zimbabwe to help President Kabila’s father to thwart another rebel group backed by Uganda and Rwanda, says it will not contribute any soldiers to the SADC force.
Regional power house South Africa will also not provide troops, but has promised logistical support.
But Mr Joey Bimha, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Home Affairs, said Zimbabwe was bound by a SADC treaty to contribute troops.
“There is an agreement by SADC and Zimbabwe, as a member, bound by it,” Mr Bimha said on Thursday.
“Zimbabwean soldiers will be going there as a SADC force, not an individual country.
“The standby force is organised and financed by the regional bloc.
“SADC will source the funds.
“The decision to send troops to the peacekeeping mission has been done by SADC countries will act according to the treaty.”
Most Zimbabweans blame the unilateral deployment of troops by President Robert Mugabe to rescue his late friend, President Kabila’s father for the collapse of the country’s economy.
Top Zimbabwean military commanders were also fingered in a United Nations report for their alleged involvement in the exploitation of DRC’s natural resources during the civil war.
DRC civil society groups early this year said Zimbabwean soldiers would not be welcomed back because of their track record.
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