Zimbabwe has deployed troops to its border with Mozambique as concern over military instability emanating from an uprising by Alfonso Dhlakama looms large.
Dhlakama is the leader and commander in chief of Mozambican opposition party and rebel movement Renamo. He said last month that his dissident army was keen to wage war and destroy Mozambique unless the government there met his demands, which include political reforms and a revision to the 1992 peace accord.
There are fears that Dhlakama’s troops could terrorise Zimbabwean citizens in the Manicaland border province with Mozambique. Concerns have also been raised over the possibility that the troops could attack facilities like the Feruka oil pipeline.
Dhlakama and his nearly 800 troops are camped at the Casa Banana base on the foot of Mount Gorongossa.
Knowledgeable sources in Zimbabwe have confirmed to defenceWeb that troops have been deployed to keep watch over the activities of Dhlakama and his troops. The Zimbabwean troops will likely intervene should Renamo dissident soldiers cause problems inside Zimbabwe’s territory.
“Of particular concern is the pipeline. Troops will be guarding the pipeline because it is an important property,” said one source privy to the developments.
Colonel Everson Mugwizi, the Zimbabwean Defence Forces spokesperson, would not comment on the deployment of troops to the border with Mozambique. However, sources have confirmed the development comes in the wake of a recent discussion between the Zimbabwean and Mozambique military.
The two countries are said to have close military ties and information at hand suggests that Zimbabwe is openly willing to assist the Mozambique government should Renamo embark on a civil war campaign that could plunge the Southern African region into instability.
Diplomatic sources said this week that Zimbabwe requires a Southern African Development Community (SADC) mandate to send troops into Mozambique although no green light would be required for Zimbabwe to deploy troops to maintain stability in its territory. If the need to send troops into Mozambique arises, said the diplomats, President Robert Mugabe would have to seek a SADC mandate – which can be granted by the troika on peace, politics and security.
The mandate will clearly outline the course of action to be taken. There is also the possibility that Mozambique’s other neighbouring countries will intervene, although political analysts said an SADC brokered and peaceful settlement will likely yield results and end differences between Renamo and Frelimo.
“It’s not easy to send in troops to another country, whatever the situation. In this case, a SADC mandate would have to be sought and granted. But if the troops are deployed inside Zimbabwe, then I don’t see any problem because it’s just to maintain peace in local territory,” said one of the diplomats.
Renamo and the ruling Frelimo party government fought a bitter civil war which raged from 1977 and ended with the signing of the Rome Peace Accords in 1992. The accord led to the formation of a unity government.
In terms of the agreement, political leaders were to share government posts equitably while all former combatants who were not demobilised were to be integrated into the police and the Armed Forces for the Defence of Mozambique (FADM).
Dhlakama and his Renamo insist that the Freelimo government has not even tried to honour the agreement and its members say they also want a bigger share of Mozambique’s expected coal and gas profits and an overhaul of the electoral system to prevent alleged fraud.
“I am training my men and, if we need to, we will leave here (Gorongossa) and destroy Mozambique. If it is necessary, we can go backwards. We prefer a poor country than to have people eating from our pot. We want to say to Guebuza, ‘You are eating well. We want to eat well too’,” Dhlakama has said.
“The situation cannot go on like this. We are thinking of asking for the country to be divided. Frelimo will have the south and we will have the centre and north. If they delay, they will be held responsible for the consequences. I will not leave here without solutions for everything I have demanded”, Dhlakama declared in a recent interview with AFP.