Zimbabwe/DRC: Zimbabwean troops guards President Kabila in Congo

A detachment of the Zimbabwean Presidential Guard is now providing close security for the youthful Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President, Joseph Kabila. It is not known why General Kabila has decided to put his life into the hands of the Zimbabwean National Army (ZNA) rather than those of Congolese nationals.

The Presidential Guard detachment is under the command of Lt. Colonel Richard Sauta, a 5th dan Tai Kwando expert and formerly the Guard’s unarmed combat trainer. Sauta is known to have spent several years in North Korea, and has several medals in the sport of Tai Kwando.

According to highly placed sources in Harare, only a few people in the NA are aware of this unusual arrangement concerning this additional role of the Zimbabwean Presidential Guard. It is not clear how long the soldiers have been performing these duties, whether they are being paid in their personal capacities, whether other individuals in the ZNA are receiving payment or whether there is a government-to-government agreement and how payment is being effected under the terms of such an agreement.

The detachment guarding Kabila numbers about 50 men, said the sources. However, their outfit is not renowned for its bravery. When President Mugabe’s residence was attacked in the early 1980s by disenchanted Zipra cadres, most of them took to their heels while the Police Support Unit mounted a spirited resistance.

Joseph Kabila’s father, Laurent Kabila, was killed by a member of his personal bodyguard. He was flown to Harare for emergency medical treatment after the attack, but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Before his death, Kabila’s regime had been propped up for a number of years by thousands Zimbabwean, Namibian and Angolan troops, who fought against Ugandan and Rwandese-backed rebels. For several years, in the late 1990’s, there were up to 11 000 Zimbabwean troops in the DRC – costing the country an estimated US$1million a day to equip, feed and transport.

Just this week President Mugabe announced that the country’s defence forces would be buying more weapons from China and other Asian countries “to replace equipment destroyed in the wars we have been involved in”.

It has never been officially revealed how the services to the DRC were paid for, but a United Nations report on massive looting of diamond mines in the country named a number of key political and military figures in Zimbabwe.

It is common knowledge that the ZNA (Zimbabwe National Army) owns a diamond mining company, Osleg, in partnership with ruling party ministers, which is operational in the DRC.

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