Zimbabwe will join other Southern African Development Community (SADC) military forces in a mission to bring peace to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where rebels of the M23 movement are fighting against the Congolese government.
SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao told the VOA that the decision was made after the regional bloc agreed at a summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Saturday to activate the organization’s stand-by force to the border between the DRC and Rwanda to try and neutralize the rebels.
The DRC is part of SADC and there are fears that the security crisis there may spill over to its neighbours in the region.
This will be the second time Zimbabwe is sending troops to the DRC. It first deployed soldiers in 1998 to support the Congolese government, which was then fighting rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda.
This was a costly war that some economic analysts say played a huge part in the decline of the Zimbabwean economy.
But this time around will be different, according to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Joey Bimha, who said Zimbabwean troops will only be deployed for peacekeeping and the cash-strapped Zimbabwean government will not foot the bill.
Bimha said this is a SADC initiative composed of soldiers from all member states and not an initiative by individual countries.
The regional bloc is said to be working on the modalities and the troops are expected to be dispatched in a matter of weeks.
“This is what is called a neutral international force and SADC will have to source out funding for it… Zimbabwe will contribute troops and of course at some expense to it but most of the expenses are going to be sourced from outside from the African Union and even the United Nations.”
Bimha said the mission, which is not likely to take more than a year, will aim to keep the rival sides apart and achieve some level of stability in the eastern side of the Congo, while the Joseph Kabila government can extend its control of the area.
Independent political commentator Rejoice Ngwenya, said the Zimbabwean parliament should not be ignored in making the decision to send troops to the DRC even if they are part of the SADC peace keeping force.
He said: “Even if we are part of the SADC family that has helped broker a lot of misunderstandings in Zimbabwe, the case of déjà vu and our experience in the DRC – a war that has no cause, and even considering our national resources there is nothing that justifies our intervention in the DRC.
“We were there before. We lost millions of dollars every day and that war was responsible for taking our economy down.”
Ngwenya said even though the current constitution does not necessarily require parliament to approve the deployment of troops to foreign countries, the legislators should at least be able to “sit down and look at the facts, look at the financial implications and also look at the political implications.”