Mnangagwa tells Putin US is ‘consolidating’ military bases in Zambia

Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s outreach to Russia and accusations that the United States is consolidating its military strength in Zambia highlight a growing rift between the neighbouring nations.

Diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and Zambia, historically marked by mutual support, have deteriorated under the leadership of Mnangagwa and president Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia.

During a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Thursday, Mnangagwa sought assistance for “defence and food security,” expressing concerns about US influence in Zambia.

Mnangagwa claimed the United States is “consolidating its power” in Zambia through increased security and financial aid, which he suggested aims to isolate Zimbabwe.

“The United States is making us feel lonely,” Mnangagwa remarked, indicating a perceived encirclement by Western powers.

Since Hichilema assumed office, the US has strengthened its ties with Zambia, offering increased financial aid and security cooperation.

The establishment of a US military base in Zambia has particularly signalled a shift in regional alliances. This closer relationship contrasts sharply with the more contentious US-Zimbabwe relations, strained by ongoing sanctions and criticism of Zimbabwe’s human rights record.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has also played a significant role in the unfolding drama.

Former Zambian vice president Nevers Mumba, leading the SADC electoral observation mission to Zimbabwe, issued a critical report on Zimbabwe’s recent elections.

The report highlighted irregularities and questioned the legitimacy of Mnangagwa’s victory, adding to the diplomatic tension.

Mnangagwa’s government dismissed the report as biased and accused Mumba of exceeding his mandate.

This disagreement has further strained relations, with Zimbabwe perceiving SADC, and by extension Zambia, as influenced by Western powers.

Zimbabwe’s political landscape remains volatile, with Mnangagwa’s administration facing allegations of corruption, human rights abuses and election rigging.

The SADC report, combined with increasing pressure from Western nations, has sparked fears of an orchestrated regime change.

Mnangagwa’s government views the US’ growing influence in Zambia and SADC’s critical stance as part of a broader strategy to undermine his rule.

Mnangagwa’s support for former Zambian president Edgar Lungu, succeeded by Hichilema, has also been contentious.

Lungu, whose presidency was marred by accusations of authoritarianism and economic mismanagement, was a close ally of Mnangagwa.

The transition to Hichilema, a reformist leader with strong international support, marked a significant shift in Zambia’s domestic and foreign policies.

Hichilema’s administration has distanced itself from Lungu’s legacy and is focusing on anti-corruption measures and economic reforms.

Mnangagwa perceives these policies as a threat to the regional status quo and his political survival.

Mnangagwa’s appeal to Putin for support in defence and food security underscores Zimbabwe’s precarious situation. The country faces numerous challenges, including economic instability, food shortages and an underfunded military.

Russia’s assistance is seen as crucial to bolstering Zimbabwe’s resilience against perceived external threats.

The request for defence support highlights Zimbabwe’s isolation within the region. With Zambia receiving increased security support from the US, Zimbabwe fears vulnerability. The appeal to Russia is an attempt to counterbalance US influence and secure a reliable ally amid growing regional tensions.

Under the leadership of Mnangagwa and Hichilema, diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and Zambia have become increasingly strained.

Mnangagwa’s appeal to Russia, accusations against the US and support for former president Edgar Lungu reflect a broader geopolitical struggle in southern Africa.

As the US consolidates its influence in Zambia, Zimbabwe finds itself increasingly isolated, turning to Russia for support.

The future of Zimbabwe-Zambia relations will depend on the evolving dynamics of international alliances, regional politics and internal developments within both countries.

– The Zimbabwe Mail

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