British Troops Arrive in Rhodesia

The Toronto Globe & Mail, Dec. 21, 1979

SALISBURY - The first contingent of British troops for the ceasefire monitoring force arrived here yesterday to develop the military infrastructure to support about 750 fellow Britons and another 350 soldiers from four other Commonwealth nations.

The 110 soldiers arrived aboard a Royal Air Force VC-10 within minutes of the departure of Bishop Abel Muzorewa for London for today's ceasefire signing ceremony.

Bishop Muzorewa used the occasion to issue what amounted to his opening election campaign statement, attacking Patriotic Front guerrilla organization co-leaders Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe as warmongers.

It is an understatement to suggest that our present tribulations were bequeathed to us by inept and power-hungry politicians of the Rhodesian Front (former prime minister Ian Smith's party) and the Patriotic Front. The responsibility for the numerous loved ones now dead rests on the shoulders of the leaders of these organizations, he said.

The outgoing prime minister said he was saddened and appalled by the fact that the killing continues in Rhodesia despite agreement on a ceasefire. The latest Government communique reported 32 more deaths.

I hope, said Bishop Muzorewa, after I have signed the settlement document no more people will die, no more tears will be shed and there will be no more communiques announcing murder and death. I hope there will be tears of joy and communiques of progress.

Since the arrival of Lord Soames, the British Governor, the number of casualties in the war has dropped dramatically. Guerrilla deaths are down almost by half, while the death rate of Rhodesian soldiers and white farmers has remained largely static, several dying each day.

The reason for the decrease in guerrilla deaths is due largely to the fact that Rhodesian forces are currently concentrating on training fresh members of the black auxiliary program, according to military sources.

More than 20,000 strong, the auxiliaries are a black militia loyal primarily to Bishop Muzorewa. The units, denounced by opposition politicians who claim they will intimidate voters into casting their ballot for the bishop, are not regulated under the ceasefire agreement.

Some of the training is taking place at new hastily established bases of the all-white Rhodesian Light Infantry. The new bases are designed as a means of spreading the influence of the unit while abiding by the letter of the London agreement which orders Rhodesian forces confined to base.

The 110 British soldiers who arrived yesterday will provide the logistical support for the balance of the ceasefire monitoring force. Made up of Britons, Australians, New Zealanders, Fijians and Kenyans, they will begin arriving on Sunday.

Upon arrival, the soldiers were required to go through immigration formalities. Among the requirements on the Rhodesian form was that they list their race.

The soldiers will remain in the capital at least until the ceasefire is actually signed.

Eventually the 1,200-man ceasefire force will be deployed around the country in small groups. It is hoped that their presence alone will be enough to discourage violence. If it is not, there is little the lightly armed soldiers will be able to do about it. British officials say that if the violence gets too bad, they will simply go home.

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