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US asks sanctioned Zimbabwe to help fight Mozambique militants

by Staff reporter
30 Sep 2020 at 07:34hrs | Views
THE United States asked Zimbabwe to help put down an Islamist insurgency in neighbouring Mozambique that's destabilising a region rich in natural gas, people familiar with the matter said.

The request came in a phone call between US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Tibor Nagy and Zimbabwe Foreign Af-fairs minister Sibusiso Moyo last week, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details of the talks have not been made public.

The Foreign Affairs minister asked that the US first drops targeted sanctions against Zimbabwean officials, the sources said. Mozambique has been struggling to suppress the Islamic State-affiliated group that is destabilising a region where nearly US$60 billion in investment in natural gas facilities are planned by companies including Total SE and Exxon Mobil Corp.

While Zimbabwe is in a state of economic collapse, its army is battle-hardened with its troops having fought in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as having supported US operations in Angola and Somalia. Zimbabwe has a long history of involvement in neighbouring Mozambique. The guerrilla army of its ruling party used Mozambique as a base from which to launch attacks on then White-ruled Rhodesia in a 1970s liberation war.

Zimbabwean troops intervened to quell a rebellion by Mozambique's opposition Renamo party militants in the 1980s and 1990s. The Mozambican port of Beira is key for landlocked Zimbabwe's imports. Mozambique estimates that the insurgency in northeastern Cabo Delgado province has forced about 300 000 people to flee their homes. The militants have repeatedly taken control of the Mocimboa da Praia port this year and a number of villagers have been killed.

Moyo, an army general who played a key part in a coup in which Robert Mugabe was ousted as Zimbabwe's president in 2017, can't be seen to be co-operating with the US unless the sanctions are scrapped, the sources said. Moyo told Nagy that Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa shares the US's concerns about the militants and that the two nations share strategic interests elsewhere, but sanctions remained an obstacle, the sources said.

"The assistant secretary and the Zimbabwean Foreign minister discussed how implementing promised economic and political reforms would restore Zimbabwe's international reputation, rebuild its economy, and give voice to all Zimbabweans," a State Department spokesman said.

"They did not discuss alleviating sanctions in response to counter-terror assistance."

In Zimbabwe's State-controlled Herald newspaper, Moyo was quoted as telling Nagy that: "This is the time for the US and Zimbabwe to start looking at the bigger strategic issues" so that the two countries can normalise relations.

Source - Bloomberg