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Serving The Master In Congo

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

Many Zimbabweans believe that Zimbabwe joined the Second Congolese war for the purpose of looting and the personal interests of its business and military elite. This is a piece written through African lenses to try and give a perspective that enjoys very little ventilation.

Zimbabwe joined the Second Congolese war as a SADC mandate that was informed by the SADC mutual defense philosophy emanating for the Frontline States Alliance of 1992, the resolutions of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference of 1995 and SADC Organ (Organ of Politics, Defense and Security) resolutions of 1996.

Back Ground

When Congo was assaulted by foreign Rwandan and Ugandan backed rebels [RCD] from the north in 1988. Laurent Kabila appealed to Cuba and SADC for military assistance as the rebels made quick progress toward Kinshasa to overthrow him and install Rwandan & Ugandan proxies as the new governors.

Harare Meeting

In response an emergency SADC meeting was held in Zimbabwe in August of 1998 and three nations: Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia emerged to honor their defense resolution obligations. They were joined by three northern regional block countries: Libya, Sudan and Chad. Ironically, the majority of SADC countries curiously chose to remain neutral in the conflict.

Why Did Zimbabwe Go To Congo

Zimbabwe's decision to honor regional obligations speaks to her adherence to the ideal of African unity that were enshrined in the preamble of the OAU founding philosophy.

It also illustrated Zimbabwe's commitment, in deed, to the principle of maintaining the spirit of regional and African solidarity that saw it and countries like Namibia and Angola benefit from the support of frontline states like Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique during the struggles for liberation.

Strategically, it's also clear that these three SADC states were against the trends witnessed in west Africa, where the bloc had failed to maintain cooperative regional stability in fighting civil unrest in that region. Resulting in interregnums that opened up vacuums for western forces like France and today AFRICOM to have military presence and political influence in the region.

Why Did Other SADC Nations Not Participate

As to the reasons why some SADC countries did not participate in defending Congo in line with the principles of frontline state alliance, African solidarity and SADC mutual defense resolutions.

Assumptions have been made that a few of those who sat it out like Zambia and Mozambique, chose not to take part because they had played a big enough role in assisting other SADC countries in achieving independence. Hence on this occasion they passed the baton onto these countries that they liberated to pay it forward on their behalf.

However, questions have remained around the non-participation of a continental power like South Africa that was liberated by all other African countries, and various speculative conclusions have been made.

Some cite a lack of commitment to regional cooperation by South Africa and Botswana because their western handlers wanted Laurent Kabila to be removed so that a puppet leader partial to western corporate interests would replace him.

Nonetheless, the jury is still out on the truth surrounding the reasons why these nations never participated.

But what we know is that the Zimbabwean lead SADC intervention in Congo resulted in Rwandan backed rebels failing to overthrow Kabila. As a result the warring parties were pushed into negotiations in Sun City South Africa.

South Africa The Peace Keeper

At this point South Africa’s SANDF began their peace keeping mission in Congo. Not too long after which, Lauren Kabila was assassinated by his bodyguard and Joseph Kabila ascended to power.

In 2001 sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe by the US senate for Zimbabwe's participation in the war among other things, which weakened and sidelined Zimbabwe in the regional negotiations pertaining to Congo.

By he end of 2002 an armistice known as the Sun City Accord was signed to bring peace to Congo in a country that was not party to defending Congo from rebel forces.

SANDF Corporate Security Duty

With the SANDF now serving as a rampart, South African mining companies belonging to global capital and politicians made a beeline to negotiate concessions with the new incumbent. In short course, many of these companies established operations under the protection of the SANDF.

Many experts have read South Africa’s entry into peacekeeping in Congo as a clear case of South African soldiers being used as a security force to protect the same western interests that were being supported by Rwandan backed rebels against Kabila.

The only difference now is they are now simultaneously protecting those interests and those of South African companies belonging to white capital and South African politicians.

What’s ironic is that South Africa never saw the importance of defending Congo as a regional partner from imperialism. But now that Zimbabwe and others have done the dirty work, giving South African companies leeway to establish commercial interests and the U.N. is paying South Africa to protect theirs and western commercial interests. They are now in Congo like an occupation force.

Putting paid to the suspicions that South Africa did not enter the Congolese war with Zimbabwe and other partners because they wanted Lauren Kabila to be removed because of his desire to protect Congolese resources for his people.

Unity In Africa Requires Sacrifice

In conclusion, we can not have unity in Africa without citizens of Africa understanding their geopolitical history and neo-colonial reality. We also can not have African progress without unity, solidarity and common contribution to causes like mutual defense and economic collaboration.

It is important for Zimbabweans in particular to understand that the participation of Zimbabwe in Congo was critical in building regional stability and continental unity by stopping the attack on Congo for western interests.

In particular it was critical to limit the potential conflagration of destabilization in the region, and the opening of a gap to attract the infiltration of foreign western armies in our region.

Yes, like with every war, some selfish reasons might have motivated our leaders to participate in Congo. However, over and above those, I believe the mutual defense philosophy and regional defense form honorable grounds upon which we participated in that war, unlike other countries serving imperial interests.

By Rutendo Bereza Matinyarare

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