Zimbabwe has deployed a strong security team to provide VVIP protection at the Africa Cup of Nations which starts in Equatorial Guinea on Saturday at the request of the host country.The tournament will end on February 8.
The contingent was sent off by Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Constantine Chiwenga at a colourful ceremony yesterday.
The deployment, at the invitation of Equatorial Guinea, has been viewed as an endorsement of Zimbabwe’s aptitude in security matters.
ZDF spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwisi yesterday confirmed the deployment. “Zimbabwe has deployed a contingent comprising Zimbabwe Defence Forces members, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and other members of the security services,” he said.
“The deployment was at the invitation of the Equatorial Guinea government. The deployment will be sponsored by Equatorial Guinea. The purpose of the deployment is to provide VVIP protection during Afcon.” Col Mugwisi said the invitation for Zimbabwe to provide protection was clear evidence of the confidence that Africa has in Zimbabwe’ security forces.
“It shows that we are second to none,” he said. “It means Africa has confidence in us because we have never failed be it at the United Nations, the African Union and regional peacekeeping missions. Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces urged the contingent to raise the Zimbabwean flag high.”
Zimbabwe National Army spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Alphias Makotore said the army would lead the contingent that comprised of officials from the country’ security departments.
“This is a very strong contingent with specialists,” he said. “We have army commanders who will be leading the contingent. The name of the operation is Africa Pride.” The ZDF is deploying at the invitation of the Equatorial Guinea government whose President, Dr Obiang Nguema Mbasogo wrote to President Mugabe requesting security support.
All the costs to do with the month-long operation are to be borne by the Equatorial Guinea government.
The deployment, that comes just a few weeks shy of President Mugabe’s assumption of the chairpersonship of the African Union at the African Union’s 24th Summit that begins in Addis Ababa later this month, dovetails with the responsibilities given to a country about to assume the leadership of the continental body.
Initially, this year’s edition of the Africa Cup of Nations was supposed to be hosted by Morocco but the north African country, which rescinded its membership of the African Union on November 12, 1984 in protest over the OAU’s admission of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, reconsidered its bid to host the tournament citing the Ebola outbreak that afflicted parts of western Africa.
Morocco’s refusal to host Afcon would have seen Qatar, a tiny emirate in the Middle East, hosting the matches, which would in turn have been a major embarrassment for Africa, as such Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe and Angola which is also sending some troops, have intervened to safeguard Africa’s sovereignty over its own tournament.
Zimbabwe’ security forces have received worldwide accolades and have participated in UN peacekeeping missions, with a number of locals commanding those missions.
On March 7, 2004 the ZDF intercepted a planeload of mercenaries that were on their way to Malabo where they intended to depose the Government of President Nguema.