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US-Zambia military pact rattles Zimbabwe

by Staff reporter
06 May 2022 at 19:27hrs | Views
THE establishment of a specialised United States security office in Zambia has unsettled authorities in Zimbabwe following heated debate across the political divide on the possible intentions of the Americans.

The move last week by the Americans sparked intense interest on the real objectives of Washington in the relatively volatile region, in which Zimbabwe has been a priority of the superpower's foreign policy. Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema's government has been under fire from Zanu-PF supporters, who took turns to publicly lambast the Lusaka administration for being a ‘puppet' of the West.

The latest foreign policy manoeuvres in neighbouring Zambia come after a sustained two-decade onslaught against the Harare administration, which has culminated in Washington extending its embargo on Zimbabwe over the years.

Washington slapped Harare with sanctions in 2001 when former president Robert Mugabe rolled out the land acquisition programme, which was characterised by unprecedented violence and collapse of the rule of law. In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent, the US Embassy Lusaka deputy public affairs officer Julie Mellin said the security office in Lusaka was an extension of its military cooperation, meant to thwart malign actors in the region.

"The US-Zambia security partnership will help advance stability in the Southern Africa region. The United States and Zambia share common security interests to promote peace and stability in the Southern Africa region and on the continent," she said.

"Building on its strong partnership with Zambia, the US government, through the Office of Security Cooperation, will expand areas of cooperation in-force management, modernisation and professional military education for Zambian security forces. An Office of Security Cooperation is not a US military base."

Mellin said the Office of Security Cooperation provided financial and technical assistance, facilitated the transfer of requested defence materials, training and services to partner nations, and promoted military-to-military engagements.

She added that in Zambia, the United States supported the 10-week pre-deployment training for Zambian forces participating in the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic and provided international military education and training.

"The Department of Defence HIV/Aids (DHAPP) programme provides US$12 million annually to support Zambian security forces with technical assistance and mentoring to prevent, manage and treat cases in the force," she said.

"Security assistance programmes currently administered by the United States in Zambia include HIV/Aids prevention and support, UN peacekeeping training and technical assistance, and professional military education and other training for the Zambia Defence Force."

Zanu-PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu had promised to respond to a request by the Independent but had not done so by the time of going to print.

Professor of World Politics, University of London Stephen Chan told the Independent that the US would not choose Zimbabwe as the site for such an office as Zambia is regarded as politically almost the polar opposite of Zimbabwe.

"It is not unusual for US embassies to have such offices associated with them. In Zambia's case, the US regards Zambia as a liberal, democratic country and this is important in a volatile region. This will be primarily a ‘listening post' to gather views from the region, but also a liaison post with other US military interests such as Africom," Chan said.

"But the office will itself have no military capacity to speak of. The South Africans might raise their eyebrows, but the US –  behind closed doors – is not greatly impressed by South African security and military acumen. Zambia has long-standing peacekeeping experience across Africa – from Mozambique to Darfur to Sierra Leone.

"This stands them in good stead in the eyes of security personnel in other countries – whereas the South African performance in, for example, the Central African Republic was regarded as of a very poor standard," he said.

Solidarity and anti-colonial sentiment remain strong among Africa's liberation movement leaders, such that, in 2013  the then South African president Thabo Mbeki condemned the way in which Britain presumed it could still meddle in Zimbabwean affairs claiming that Britain had been prepared to use military force to overthrow Mugabe.

Mbeki alleged that former British prime minister Tony Blair pressured him to join a "regime change scheme" as Zimbabwe plunged into a political and economic crisis in the early 2000s. But the claim was strongly denied by Blair's office.

Source - The Zimbabwe Independent
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