The defense has since 1996 been reduced by about 10,000 men and comprises about 29,000 men recruited (2008). It is organized in an army of 25,000 men with five brigades and an air force of 4,000 men with just over 50 older fighter aircraft and six armed helicopters. Semi-military security forces amount to 22,000 men with police duties. The material is outdated and mainly of Chinese origin. Certain modern Western aircraft equipment has been added. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that ZI stands for Zimbabwe.
Defense costs increased in 1985-2005 from 3.1% to 4% of GDP. Zimbabwe contributes with observers to UN peacekeeping operations in Ivory Coast and Sudan.
Zimbabwe’s foreign policy
Zimbabwe’s foreign policy relations were largely linked to relations during the liberation war in the first two decades after independence in 1980. The close relations between the ZANU and FRELIMO liberation movements continued at state level after 1980, and Zimbabwe became involved in the government in the civil war in Mozambique, including sending military forces to the country in 1982-1993. Zimbabwe, for its part, became the target of the Mozambican rebel movement RNM (Renamo).
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Zimbabwe also supported the South African liberation movement ANC, and the South African apartheid regime was behind several sabotage attacks and assassination attempts in Zimbabwe, including when the ZANU headquarters was destroyed by a bomb in 1981. Relations with Zambia had long been measured due to the country’s primary ZAPU during the war. Relations with neighboring Botswana have been hampered by extensive illegal labor migration from Zimbabwe when the economic crisis began. Political relations with Tanzania, which played a leading role as a front-line state, on the other hand, has been good, and Zimbabwe joined the regional cooperation in southern Africa through SADC. Relations with South Africa changed significantly after the regime change there in 1994. South Africa’s President from 1999 to 2008, Thabo Mbeki, was a long way from defending Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe against international criticism.
As an extension of ZANU’s relations from the war, close relations with China and North Korea were also continued, with considerable financial assistance. However, relations with the Soviet Union, which had supported ZAPU, were not as good. The United Kingdom remained a close partner, but neither the United Kingdom nor the United States rendered the comprehensive assistance they had promised, and Britain was eventually accused by President Mugabe of a colonial and racist policy.
The Norwegian and Nordic support for the liberation struggle continued in the form of state aid after independence, and several voluntary organizations continued their solidarity efforts from the days of the war. The Nordic countries also shared much of the international criticism that became Zimbabwe from the second half of the 1990s, largely due to human rights violations. Zimbabwe ceased to be a priority partner country for Norwegian aid.
In 1998, Zimbabwe became involved in the DR Congo war by sending about 11,000 soldiers in support of President Laurent Kabila. Zimbabwe intervened following a decision in the SADC partner organization and was the country that sent the most soldiers to DR Congo. The costly commitment was disputed in Zimbabwe, and was also criticized by several aid providers. Zimbabwe secured financial interests in mining and agriculture in DR Congo in return for the war effort. In 2004, a group of mercenaries arrested in Zimbabwe on a stopover from South Africa to Equatorial Guinea were accused of planning a coup there.
From around 2000, Zimbabwe’s foreign relations have been marked by the political crisis in the country, which has worsened relations with the West, including the largest aid providers – and especially the United Kingdom. Norway also stopped state-by-state aid from 2000. International pressure led Zimbabwe to strengthen relations with China and Libya, while the United States and the EU imposed sanctions on the country, which was also banned from the Commonwealth of Nations.
Mugabe’s handling of the crisis in the 2000s was criticized by several African leaders, but at the same time held to be an African matter for which an African solution should be sought. Both the African Union (AU) and the SADC became involved in the problem and, above all, South Africa had a role in negotiating a solution. Mozambique’s former president Joaquim Chissano was committed to establishing a process in 2005, but the government rejected his invitation to mediation. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Tanzania’s former President Benjamin Mkapa to mediate; nor did this bring forth. After the 2008 election, African leaders pushed through the AU to get Mugabe to the negotiating table, and South Africa took a more active role – which led to the agreement on power distribution.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg criticized the Zimbabwean regime during the SADC summit in 2008, followed by two joint Nordic statements on the situation in Zimbabwe, condemning the political violence in the country and concern for the human rights situation. The Nordic countries also called for Mugabe’s “governing” to cease. In March 2009, Development Minister Erik Solheim made an official visit to Zimbabwe, and met with President Mugabe for discussions on the situation and possibilities for resuming aid cooperation. In 2015, bilateral assistance from Norway to Zimbabwe was NOK 132.7 million, of which 72 million was earmarked “good governance”.