March 25, 2007: Angola is vociferously denying that
it will send special paramilitary police
to Zimbabwe. But over the last few days, word on the street has
been that Angola had agreed to provide
Zimbabwe's government with up to 2,500 special police. The reports even
mentioned numbers and arrival dates. A thousand police are to arrive the first
week of April. Three groups of 500 will deploy from Angola to Zimbabwe sometime
It appears some type of security agreement was
reached. Given that Zimbabwe's government, led by its aging dictator, Robert
Mugabe, is under enormous strain, the Angolan agreement certainly seems
suspicious. That's because the government of Zimbabwe does not appear to be
that desperate, yet. Elite Zimbabwean military units remain loyal to Mugabe
(they are well paid), and Mugabe can count on the "hard core" in his militia.
But there are signs that the Zimbabwean police and some units in the Zimbabwean
Army are disenchanted. If these guys rolled over, that's why Mugabe would want
to hire 2500-3000 Angolan special security police. Angola has several very good military and
paramilitary police units and is the second-best military overall in southern
Africa. South Africa has the best military in the region, but is very opposed
to hiring out its cops for desperate dictators.
When pressed, Zimbabwe admitted there was an
arrangement, but that it was a "training exchange" agreement. A training
exchange usually involves only a small number of police acting as trainers.
However, 2,500 is not a small number; a deployment of 2500 would mean deploying
units, not trainer teams.
Angolas' special paramilitary police are a capable
force that has a violent reputation and is known for its loyalty to Angolan
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. The special paramilitary police also serve
in the Angolan president's presidential guard. Dos Santos has led Angola since
1979. Like Mugabe, Dos Santos has been in power a long time. The special
paramilitary police are sometimes called "ninjas" because they wear black
uniforms. Reports from Zimbabwe suggest Mugabe's government no longer fully
trusts its police. Hiring Angolans -or any outside mercenary force-- would also
serve as a check on disgruntled members of Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
But Zimbabwe is also broke. Not a lot of spare cash
for foreign mercenaries. But if you are at the end of your rope, perhaps the
mercs will insure that you can safely skip the country. When all else fails,
there's always luxurious exile, paid for by all the money you stole and stashed
in foreign bank accounts.