, HARARE, Dec 13 – Zimbabwe will deploy troops for a year to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as part of a broader multinational peacekeeping force, a top official said Thursday.
Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Joey Bimha told AFP the cash-strapped nation would send a battalion of soldiers as part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) deployment.
A battalion can be anything from a few hundred to more than a thousand soldiers.
“Our guys are looking at it right now and the battalion has to be deployed in line with the SADC resolution and this is going to be as soon as possible and we are talking in terms of a few weeks.” said Bimha.
Bimha said he was not sure about the number of troops Zimbabwe would send as this was a SADC planning element.
Leaders from SADC member states agreed over the weekend to provide a force of 4,000 troops to keep the peace after the mainly Tutsi M23 rebels group briefly captured the main eastern city of Goma.
There would not to be any direct cost for Zimbabwe, he said: funding would come from the SADC, the African Union and the United Nations.
“The DRC government has pledged $10 million although the whole operation will cost $100 million.” said Bimha.
This will be the second time that Zimbabwe has intervened in the DRC conflict. President Robert Mugabe deployed thousands of soldiers in 1998 to defend the then DRC president Laurent Kabila.
Saturday’s SADC summit in Tanzania committed to deploying the organisation’s Standby Force to the region.
It also approved an offer by Tanzania to lead the force. It will also be suppling a batallion to the force, while South Africa agreed to supply logistical support.