Paramilitary: Asian Mercenaries in Zimbabwe


April 24,2008: Concurrent with China's latest shipments of arms and munitions to Zimbabwe (see), two dozen uniformed and armed Chinese soldiers were seen patrolling the streets of the eastern border town of Mutare, with Zimbabwean troops, during a strike by Mugabe's political opposition. The Chinese Embassy denied that there were any Chinese troops in the area, but suggested that local Chinese-owned companies hired contractors to protect their interests. Over the last few years, thousands of Chinese have moved to Zimbabwe, where they have become active in retailing, manufacturing, mining and farming. They have a lot to protect and apparently have formed a militia.

Mugabe is running scared of open revolt, with the results of the March 29 joint parliamentary and presidential elections still unclear. The state-run Herald newspaper even suggested the best solution was to form a government of national unity, but Mugabe's political opposition went ahead with a planned nationwide strike to protest the increasing violence and force the release of the election results. Local church leaders issued warnings of impending ``genocide'' unless international intervention arrests the deteriorating political and security situation.

Beijing has a substantial investment in Zimbabe, including a $1.3 billion contract to open coal mines and three thermal power stations in the Zambezi valley (as well as unpaid debts dating back to the Congo Civil War that started in 1998).

This is not the first time Mugabe has looked east for security assistance. In 1981, he imported 106 North Korean police instructors, who trained a brigade of troops on how to most effectively terrorize Matabeleland. There, the Ndebele minority (18 percent of the population) were hostile to Mugabe, who was a Shona. The Shona and Ndebele had not gotten along, even as they fought for Zimbabwean independence. So Mugabe sent his North Korean trained 5th Brigade to Matabeleland, where thousands of Ndebele died, and everyone else was terrified into submission. The North Koreans took their money and went home.

If China fails to maintain influence over the election results, their political and economic foothold is in danger of evaporating. - Adam Geibel


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