Terrorism Monitor, August 12, 2011
Mu’ammar Qaddafi’s policy of using Libya’s oil wealth to build stronger ties with sub-Saharan African nations through financial aid, investment and arms supplies has resulted in a distinct lack of support in many of these nations for NATO’s military intervention in the Libyan rebellion. Among the most vociferous of Qaddafi’s supporters has been the long-time ruler of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe has been frequently mentioned as a possible place of exile for the Libyan leader and there were rumors earlier this year that Zimbabwean troops had been sent to Libya, rumors that gained strength within Zimbabwe after the nation’s defense minister declined to issue a straightforward denial (Zimbabwean, February 25, 2011). One Zimbabwe daily later claimed to have confirmation from state intelligence sources that 500 soldiers and a number of state security agents intended to reinforce Qaddafi’s female bodyguard had been deployed in Libya (Zimbabwe Mail, March 17).
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
President Mugabe, who has been consistent in his support for the Libyan leader, took the opportunity of using a 90 minute speech in Harare to castigate NATO for its actions in Libya, particularly those directed personally at Qaddafi and his family, describing the NATO members as “terrorists.” The speech was delivered as part of celebrations honoring the Chimurenga War, the local name for the national liberation struggle that brought Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party to power in 1980.
Mugabe warned Zimbabweans to be vigilant of foreign attempts at regime change in Zimbabwe as he defended his friend and ally, Mu’ammar Qaddafi:
Look what they are doing in Libya. The brazen way they seek to kill Qaddafi… they are deliberately throwing bombs at his family residences. [NATO] has lost its legitimacy, it has become terrorist and beware this they can do on any other African country than Libya. We must always be in a state of preparedness. They seek to kill Qaddafi. They have in fact deliberately killed some of his children. Now when they do that deliberately, it is exactly what the Taliban and al-Qaeda do – what is the difference in terms of what they [NATO] are doing? That’s why I say NATO is now a terrorist organization as well. If it defies international law it has no rules and goes out blatantly wanting to kill – that’s brazen murder, assassination, who then can respect it as a law-abiding organization? (Zimbabwe Guardian, August 8).
Mugabe also warned he will soon take action against foreign firms operating in Zimbabwe that originate in countries supporting sanctions against his regime, naming mineral giant Rio Tinto in particular: “If they are to continue mining, then the sanctions must go.” The president added that Western investment could easily be replaced by investment from friendlier countries, such as Russia, China, India and Cuba (Zimbabwe Guardian, August 8). China is making strong inroads in Zimbabwe; after loaning the nation $700 million earlier this year it was rewarded with substantial diamond and platinum concessions. Chinese corporations also appear to have received an exemption from a government program that requires mining companies to turn over 51% of their shares to black Zimbabweans by September 31 (ZimOnline, August 9).
This article was originally published in the August 12, 2011 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor