Mugabe, Kabila’s US$1bn debt spat

ZIMBABWE, still bruised by its costly involvement in the Great Lakes war between 1998 and 2002 where it sustained heavy military and financial losses, is not sending troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this time despite the dramatic seizure this week of the main eastern town of Goma by rebels amid threats of an assault on the capital, Kinshasa, it emerged yesterday.

Report by Owen Gagare

Senior government officials told the Zimbabwe Independent President Robert Mugabe, commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), and his Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, were reluctant to intervene in the DRC, mainly due to Harare’s frosty relations with Kinshasa over several issues, including a US$1 billion debt fall-out.

Repeated efforts yesterday to get comment from Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba and Mnangagwa were unsuccessful.

Army spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwisi promised to answer questions, but did not.

Officials say there is no loveFrom Pagelost between Mugabe and his DRC counterpart Joseph Kabila following Zimbabwe’s failed bid to secure compensation from the DRC for losses largely sustained between 1998 and 2000.

Since 2000 Zimbabwe has been demanding about US$1 billion from the DRC for military and consumables expenditures incurred during the war. Harare has written to Kinshasa insisting on US$1 billion compensation but its demands have been resisted and ignored. Zimbabwe wants to be compensated for losses of military equipment, supplies, and monies spent on operations and consumables.

“The aftermath of the DRC war on Zimbabwe has been very bad. First, the country lost so much there as it spent millions on an unending war, fuelled by longstanding ethnic tensions, regional and global rivalry and the scramble for resources, away from its borders. Second, after its withdrawal South Africa and other bigger powers moved in to do business.

Third, Zimbabwe’s mining contracts there were cancelled. Fourth, the DRC refused to compensate Zimbabwe for war losses. And fifth, Kabila distanced himself from Mugabe,” an informed source said.

“Given all this Zimbabwe won’t intervene. It would now only act within Sadc, the African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) frameworks. Its defence pact with Angola and Namibia forged during the one war won’t be activated to provide a joint intervention force,” the source said.

However, the main sticking point now complicating diplomatic relations between Harare and Kinshasa is Mugabe and Kabila’s dealings. It is understood they are now in each other’s bad books over several issues, including Kabila’s deemed lack of appreciation of Mugabe’s help rendered to his late father Laurent who was assassinated by his bodyguard in 2001, four years after he toppled veteran dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Mugabe reportedly insulted Kabila over their sour relations in 2009 when he visited Harare as Sadc chair to resolve a local crisis following Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s withdrawal from the coalition government.

In a sensational United States diplomatic cable filed from Harare in 2009, which was later released by WikiLeaks, DRC ambassador to Zimbabwe Mawapanga Mwana Nanga told former American ambassador Charles Ray that Mugabe attacked Kabila at the meeting after he had initially refused to meet him.

Kabila was holed up in South Africa for hours while Mugabe resisted the meeting which only occurred after Sadc facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma’s intervention.

Mugabe is also said to be reluctant to intervene because of a number of other reasons, including unpredictable geo-political dynamics in Sadc and Africa, as well as globally, Zimbabwe’s internal politics, the state of the economy, forthcoming elections and inevitable popular disapproval.

“The DRC issue has been discussed with security structures and with the political leadership and the decision is that Zimbabwe is not sending troops there to combat the renewed rebel menace,” a senior government official said.

The situation was widely discussed and carefully considered. There are various reasons why Zimbabwe won’t be intervening this timein the DRC despite the renewal of war.It is a complicated situation, worsened by the frosty relations between Mugabe and Kabila.” Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said Zimbabwe would not intervene.

Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame will attend a regional summit in Uganda tomorrow after rebels seized the main eastern Congolese city of Goma.African Union Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will also attend the extraordinary summit of the 11-member regional bloc, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.

Kabila and Kagame — whom the U N accuses of backing the M23 rebels who seized the city of Goma on Tuesday, claims Kigali rejects — will come face to face again at the Kampala summit.

After the fall of Goma, Kabila flew to Kampala for two days of crisis-talks with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and Kagame.
The three leaders issued a joint statement calling on the rebels to stop their offensive “immediately” and to withdraw from Goma, which has a population of one million.

But M23’s political chief, Bishop Jean-Marie Runiga, told Reuters that Rwanda and Uganda had no authority to order them to give up the city.

“We’ll stay in Goma waiting for negotiations,” he was quoted as saying. The rebels captured the small town of Sake, 27km west of Goma, on Wednesday and threatened to march to the capital, Kinshasa, to overthrow Kabila.

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