Freeman Razemba Senior Reporter
Angola has hailed Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda for the brilliant manner in which he led United Nations peacekeeping forces in that country in the 1990s.
Gen Sibanda headed United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III) as the force commander charged with peace and national reconciliation.
Speaking during a reception to mark the 27th Anniversary of the Angolan Armed Forces held at the Angolan Embassy in Harare, Angolan Ambassador Pedro Hendrik Vaal Neto said their country and Zimbabwe continued to enjoy cordial relations.
“The Angolan Armed Forces and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have always been on the same side and their fraternity is strengthened everyday by mutual cooperation,” he said.
“We are certain that the new generation of Heads of State in both countries, His Excellency (President) Emmerson Mnangagwa and President Joao Lourenco will strengthen this union and abide on this path of cooperation forever.
“We thank you all for your presence, especially His Excellency General Phillip Valerio Sibanda, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, a great friend of Angola, who is recognised by all Angolans for the brilliant way in which he led the peacekeeping forces in our country alongside the United Nations.”
Ambassador Neto said the Angolan Armed Forces constituted one of the fundamental pillars of the Angolan State and that they were an instrument of peace and unity in a country, which for a long time had been severely impaired by division and war. He said the armed forces also actively participated in the process of reconstruction and transformation of Angola into a modern, peaceful and stable country that the Angolan people aspire to.
Speaking at the same occasion, Gen Sibanda said as Zimbabwe consolidated its Independence in the 1990s, a request was made by the United Nations for the country to contribute troops to the peacekeeping efforts in Angola. He said in the spirit of Pan-Africanism, Zimbabwe did not hesitate to deploy troops, staff officers and military observers as requested by the UN.
“The Zimbabwe Defence Forces and their Angolan counterparts were also pioneers in the early foundations towards the achievement of the operational capability of the Sadc Standby Force, when they took part in Exercise Golfinho, which was held in South Africa between October 16 and November 8, 2015,” said Gen Sibanda.
“The full operational capability would later be put to test alongside other standby forces from other regions of the African continent during exercise Amani Africa 11, which was successfully held at Lohatla, in the Republic of South Africa from 16 October to 8 November 2015.”
Gen Sibanda said it was worth noting that Angola made a significant contribution towards the successful execution of the exercise, particularly through the provision of the Sadc Standby Force airlift capability. He said in the area of training, the two defence forces had also immensely benefited from the multilateral Sadc training exchange milestones.
“These milestones include Exercise Vale Do Keve held in Wako Kungu, Cuanza Sul Province, Angola from 1 August to 11 September 2014, and Exercise Mahombekombe held in Kariba, Zimbabwe from 24 August to 25 September 2015, among others,” said Gen Sibanda.
“Bilaterally, our forces have had a number of training exchanges in the past, mostly in the area of staff training.”
Gen Sibanda said he was happy that the training exchanges had now been extended to regimental and skills training as was the case recently when ZDF members from the Zimbabwe National Army underwent a three-week familiarisation training tour on the T72 tanks in preparation for the Russian International Military Games held between July 28 and August 11 this year.
He said on the other hand, they had a group of 15 members of the Angolan Armed Forces on English language training in Zimbabwe.