I remember the Zimbabwe of July 1990 as a slightly behind-the-times but functioning country that managed to fix the roads, get the kids to school, grow and export food, and run some very good national parks … and little else. What a difference 19 years of despotic oligarchy can make. Today, North Korea’s number two, Kim Yong Nam, is in Harare as a guest of Robert Mugabe. And how else should the leaders of two nations they have plunged into famine celebrate their alliance? With a banquet, naturally!
Robert G. Mugabe in his speech said that Zimbabwe felt grateful to the government and people of the DPRK for having sent strong support and encouragement to his government and people in their struggle for the country’s independence and the building of a new society.
The revolutionary idea of President Kim Il Sung has always given confidence and inspiration to the Zimbabwean people in their struggle and he will always be remembered by all people along with history, he added. [….]
Kim Yong Nam in his speech said that the DPRK and Zimbabwe are far away from each other geographically but they forged close ties of friendship long ago and have developed the cooperative relations.
He recalled that Kim Il Sung sent support and encouragement, both material and moral, to the Zimbabwean people in their struggle for national liberation and the building of a new society, regarding President Robert G. Mugabe as a close friend and comrade-in-arms.
Saying that the DPRK is opposed to all sanctions against Zimbabwe and interference in its internal affairs and supports the government and people of Zimbabwe in their efforts to achieve political stability and economic development of the country, he stressed that the DPRK would make positive efforts to boost the traditional relations of friendship and cooperation in various fields between the two countries in the future, too. [KCNA]
What kind of “support and encouragement” Robert Mugabe possibly want from the North Koreans? For one thing, his troops could probably use some more training in the proper gunning down of angry mobs:
The leader of the anti-Mugabe camp in the MDC has issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the DPRK President of the Presidium of Supreme People’s Assembly of the Democratic Republic of North Korea Mr Kim Vong Nam to leave Zimbabwe.
He indicated to Mr Kim that his visit was not welcome since the DPRK was responsible for training the fifth brigade which massacred the people of Matebeleland and Mr Sikhala indicated that his aunt was a victim in that horrendous and hellish crime against humanity.
Moreover Mr Sikhala spelled out that North Korea represents the most satanic outpost of tyranny and urged Mr Kim to go and organise elections in his country where people are languishing from unmitigated poverty and gross human rights abuses. [Zim Telegraph]
Estimates of the numbers killed by the Fifth Brigade vary considerably. Wikipedia, which describes the brigade’s atrocities in grisly detail, estimates the casualties at around 3,000. This BBC report suggests that the toll is over 20,000 and alleges that North Korean officers served with the Fifth Brigade as it cut a swath through Matabeleland. The tension from this tribal and internecine conflict was still fresh when I visited Zimbabwe, and driving at night was considered unwise. Oddly enough, the pro-massacre point of view holds a unanimous dominance in the comments to this story.
Mugabe offered some support and encouragement of his own:
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has congratulated North Korea on its rocket launch last month and expressed hopes for even warmer bilateral ties. [Voice of America]
I certainly don’t see how anything good can come of this.
Update: The Zimbabweans also sent a delegation to Pyongyang, which was the Zimbabwean opposition concerned.
According to the news the report, Mohadi and his delegation met with the North Korean Minister of the Interior in which they discussed, among other things, boosting exchange and co-operation between security organs between the two countries. [The Zimbabwe Times]
What does North Korea sell that Zimbabwe could possibly need, and which North Korea isn’t barred from selling under UNSCR 1718?