The thin story about Zimbabwe militarily supporting Libya's Gaddhafi

Jun 10, 2011

During the brief civil war in Ivory Coast at the beginning of the year, there were some reports that Zimbabwe's government was supporting Laurent Gbagbo, the then-Ivorian president who would not leave power after losing an election. There have also been scattered reports of Zimbabwean support for Libya's embattled Ghaddafi.

There never were solid information provided to give credence to either allegation, but with the Mugabe government's bad-boy reputation in the West, it was considered by some to be almost guilty by default. Both allegations were obviously officially denied.

Laurent Gbagbo sent an emissary to seek support from the Mugabe government during the former's abortive attempt to hang on in power, but there is no information this bore any fruits. Gbagbo, claiming to be under siege from France, probably made a pitch on anti-imperialist grounds to a Mugabe who has succeeded to cling on to power after a very controversial election in 2008.

Whatever sympathies Mugabe may have felt for Gbagbo, Mugabe would not have been keen to go against the strong African Union and Economic Community of West African States positions against Gbagbo and in favour of his rival, now installed president Alassane Ouatarra. The Western-embattled Mugabe has been sure to try to keep African countries on his side in what he casts as his fight against foreign interference. On returning home from an AU meeting on the Ivorian impasse, Mugabe indicated he agreed with the organisation's support of Ouatarra. Mugabe and Ouatarra are certainly not ideological soul mates, but on the basis of his own self-interests there is not much reason to doubt that he agreed with and respected the AU and ECOWAS positions on Ivory Coast.     

A lot of propaganda flew in all directions during the Ivorian conflict as the many interested parties tried to spin things to suit their positions and interests. In much of the West, Mugabe is such a bad guy that portraying anybody as receiving support from him is to suggest just how awful that person is.

The International Business Tribune has a June 8 article which mentions 'many reports of Zimbabwean and Algerian soldiers fighting for his regime have emerged.'  But neither the IBT article nor the 'many reports' it mentions are anything more solid than the re-circulation of speculation and rumour.

Zimbabwe and Libya have been close, with the latter bailing out the former during fuel shortages and with concessionary finance for other economic sectors. And Zimbabwe was militarily involved in the nearby Democratic Republic of Congo civil war, along with the armies of many other countries eying mineral benefits there.     

Mugabe has come out bitterly regretting the support his government and the rest of the AU gave for the UN resolution which allowed the Wsetern countries to 'save civilians from Gadhafi's forces,' but quickly became much more. Mugabe is of course particularly sensitive about the subject of foreign-sponsored 'regime change.' 

So while there are more grounds to suspect Mugabe's sympathy for Gaddhafi, that and both men being considered 'bad guys' in the West are very shallow grounds to then suggest that Zimbabwe would send troops to help prop Ghaddafi up.     

Zimbabwe is on its knees economically and Mugabe has plenty of security concerns at home and in the region. With him constantly looking over his shoulder in fear that Western governments are working with his domestic foes and perhaps some regional ones to topple him, it is extremely unlikely that Mugabe would contemplate a military adventure in distant North Africa, regardless of how much trouble Gaddhafi is in, and regardless of their ideological kinship.

Now if the reports were about individual private mercenaries, they would be a little more credible. Libya is crawling with them, attracted from all over the world because of the country's oil wealth.

Until there is even one shred of some evidence in support of the allegations of Zimbabwean official military involvement in Libya, one suspects them of being just the latest and most recent fairy tale about Mugabe.

Interestingly, for a man who has no shortage of faults for which he can be credibly and legitimately criticised, Mugabe has attracted an astonishing amount of false propaganda which was clearly disproved. What the many false reports of his allegedly far-fetched exploits do is to merely make him appear bigger than he is. So overdone and frequent have reports that are then easily factually refuted become that many must wonder, "Why is there such a concerted propaganda campaign against him?" Mugabe has enough bad stuff to answer for without anybody needing to manufacture new things that are either unprovable or that soon after fall flat under scrutiny.   

Then there is the question of whether lack of personnel is Ghaddafi's biggest problem. Even in the unlikely event that it was and he preferred foreign fighters to Libyan ones for some reason, it would make far more sense on any basis to recruit them from Sahelian countries surrounding Libya, where the fighters would be used to the dusty, oppressively hot and dry conditions than soldiers from sub-tropical Zimbabwe would be!

Instead of providing even incrementally small amounts of substantiation, all they do is to recycle the speculation that has been made elsewhere. On military, factual, journalistic and even propaganda criteria, the Iinternational Business Tribune article and others like it don't make the grade.  

A sentence in the IBT article:

The use of mercenaries might have been a clever cover up to attract the media's attention and hide seedier alliances between Libya and other African countries.

This is a grand irony, apparently completely lost on the author. Any 'seedier alliances between Libya and other African countries' pale into insignificance in comparison to the far seedier economic and military alliances over many years between the West and Libya! It is that mutually beneficial 'seedy' alliance between Gaddhafi and his erstwhile Western friends that enabled him to build up such a well-oiled machinery with which to oppress his people for so long, and to shockingly military survive the Western bombing campaign as long as he has.

The International Business Times and its writer either forgot this, or perhaps they overlooked it in order to spew out a half-baked article with the controversial keywords 'Mugabe, Gaddhafi, Libya.'


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