UN says Mugabe receiving weapons with the help of SADC countries
By Tichaona Sibanda
19 December 2008
While the whole of the Southern African region earlier this year united in blocking an arms shipment from reaching the murderous regime of Robert Mugabe, a United Nations investigation has revealed that Chinese weapons are getting to Harare, via the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The report says at least two SADC countries are allowing shipments from China to land for onward passage to Zimbabwe.
The UN says it has credible information that between August 20 and 22 this year, a Boeing aircraft transported 53 tons of ammunition destined for the Zimbabwe defence forces, from the DRC to Zimbabwe.
Marty Natalegawa, chairman of the UN Security Council committee probing conflict in the eastern Congo, said while the transportation doesn’t violate an arms embargo on eastern Congo it does show that Congo is being used as a transshipment point for weapons destined for other countries.
An attempt by China to transport arms to the country in April was blocked by a South African labour union that instructed its members to refuse to unload a shipment that arrived in Durban, South Africa. Attempts to dock at ports in neighboring countries were also unsuccessful.
But this UN report says new shipments of AK-47 rounds, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades appear to have been routed through countries that are friendly to the regime in Harare. It says the weaponry was carried by a Boeing 707 with the registration number 9Q-CRM. The aircraft is operated by Congolese company EWA, whose owner is closely associated with DRC President Josef Kabila and Mugabe’s right hand man Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Liberty Mpakati, an intelligence analyst, said; ‘The information contained in the UN report is just the tip of an iceberg. This is a very complex operation involving several Southern African countries. How the system works is the DRC would purchase the weapons on behalf of Zimbabwe and once they get hold of the cargo, they would simply forward it to Zimbabwe.’
He added; ‘Kabila owes his presidency to Mugabe and he will do anything to ensure he remains in power. As for the Chinese, you need not look further than their opposition at the UN to block any moves to impose global sanctions against Mugabe.’
The UN investigation also found ammunition of Zimbabwean origin in the DRC’s Rumangabo district. Congolese authorities captured a Bulgarian made RPG-7 rocket grenade launcher and 7.62 millimeter ammunition made by state-owned Zimbabwe Defense Industries under its trade name ‘Cheetah.’ 7.62 millimeter ammunition is used in AK-47 assault rifles, the most commonly used weapon in African rebellions. Zimbabwe deployed troops to Congo during the civil war in the country to support the government of Joseph Kabila from rebels from the east, who were backed by Rwanda and Uganda.
The report said authorities in Zimbabwe responded that the ammunition was made for ‘hunting purposes’ and that the country had not supplied arms to the DRC since its troops withdrew in 2002.
Meanwhile, international civic organisations have demanded the immediate suspension of all Zimbabwean extracted diamonds from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) after citing a government crackdown, that has claimed the lives of at least 70 illegal diamond diggers at Chiadzwa, in Manicaland province.
Reports said the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, which comprises civic organisations fighting against the illegal diamond trade, last week piled pressure on the KPCS to impose a blanket suspension on Zimbabwe's rough diamonds.
The bloody crackdown on illegal diamond miners by a joint operation of the police, army and secret agents was codenamed Operation Hakudzokwi.
In a damning statement, the KP Coalition claimed that the crackdown was meant to prop up Mugabe's administration against the backdrop of a worsening economic and humanitarian situation.