Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda today ordered a total mobilization of his armed forces and a call-up of all military reserves to meet what he called a "full-scale war situation" caused by intensified attacks on Zambian transport facilities apparently by Zimbabwe-Rhodesian commandos.
His move highlights the increasing pressures he faces as a result of the escalating destruction of his country's infrasfracture.Yet it also is an ominous sign that the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian conflict is sending ever larger shock waves into neighboring countries that host the nationalist guerrillas fighting the Salisbury government.
In Washington, the State Department condemned Zimbabwe-Rhodesian attacks. U.S. officials said Kaunda is "genuinely angry" at continued attacks on non-military targets in Zambia and the resulting economic hardship there, including a possible food crisis.
These officials said, however, that Kaunda's action also should be placed in the context of the Rhodesia peace conference in London where his public attack on the military forces of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia would tend to place the Salisbury government at a disadvantage in the current cease-fire negotiations.
Speaking at a news conference in the Zambian capital of Lusaka, Kaunda said that "Zambia and all its residents are called upon to appreciate that we are now in a full-scale war situation. Everyone must therefore be ready to respond whenever called upon to assist.
"All leave in the security forces is hereby cancelled and those now on leave are hereby recalled to duty," the Zambian leader announced. "The party and its government will also take the necessary steps to mobilize all other resources for the war."
Kaunda asked for material and other forms of assistance "both to herself [Zambia] and to the Patriotic Front to fight this just war to its logical conclusion." The Patriotic Front is the guerrilla alliance fighting Prime Minister Abel Muzorewa's government in Salisbury.Zambia gives sanctuary to one of its wings led by Joshua Nkomo.
It is not clear whether Kaunda's remarks mean he has withdrawn his support for the British-sponsored peace talks now going on in London between Salisbury and the Patriotic Front forces, and instead is opting for a military solution to the conflict.
If so, it could lead to a breakdown in the London conference which appears deadlocked again today. If the talks end without peace settlement, the British government might be forced to hold elections without Patriotic Front participation.
This is favored by many in Muzorewa's government who fear the guerrillas will not respect a cease-fire and results of the election Britain has committed itself to holding before it grants independence to its breakaway colony.
Muzorewa, who is backed by the powerful, white-officered Zimbabwe-Rhodesian armed forces, reacted today by saying "President Kaunda must be told loudly and clearly that any force applied against us will be met by a force far greater than he has experienced in the past, and the consequences will be disastrous for the unfortunate Zambian masses."
Calling on all parties to "exercise restraint," British officials contacted the Muzorewa delegation at the London conference asking them to avoid actions which could jeapordize conference's outcome.
According to the 1979 report of the London Institute of Strategic Studies, Zambia has an army of 12,800 men and an air force of 1,500. It is not known how large the reserves are. It would not appear to represent a major threat to the better-trained Zimbabwe-Rhodesian forces which have superior air power.
In the past four days attacks on road and rail bridges around Lusaka have left the capital with only one major highway connection intact, the one to Zaire north of Zambia. Zambian authorities have charged that "rebel" and "racist" troops were responsible, using their customary label for Zimbabwe-Rhodesian soldiers.
As in the past with all the Zambian claims, the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian defense headquarters said here today they had no comment to make.