Operation Agila : The Commonwealth Monitoring Force in Rhodesia 1979–1980 : History in Focus

Operation Agila : The Commonwealth Monitoring Force in Rhodesia 1979–1980 cover
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In December 1979, the Commonwealth Monitoring Force (CMF) was established by the British Commonwealth, with troops drawn from Australia, Britain, Fiji, Kenya and New Zealand. The operation was codenamed AGILA. The role of the CMF was to keep the peace between the Rhodesian Government's Security Forces and 22,000 Patriotic Front guerrillas during the run-up to the 1980 general elections which would establish the governance of a new independent state. The elections were held in February 1980, with the two major parties being Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union and Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union.

The Australian deployment was codenamed Operation DAMON. The contingent comprised 152 army personnel, all of whom were officers or NCOs. The advance party arrived in Harare (then Salisbury) on 23 December 1979, and the bulk of the contingent arrived on Christmas Day.

The main duty of the Australian contingent was to monitor the assembly points where the Patriotic Front guerrillas had agreed to gather, and to observe and report on the ceasefire between them and the Rhodesian Security Forces.

CMF troops faced some real risks. The force was spread thin, and would be vulnerable should the peaceful transition to independence fail. There were also environmental hazards, including a wide range of diseases and the existence of landmines within the areas in which they had to work.

There were many breaches of the ceasefire and acts of intimidation by both sides in the lead-up, but the election went ahead over three days, 27–29 February, without major incident. Robert Mugabe's party won, and Rhodesia was officially renamed Zimbabwe on 18 April 1980.

On 2 March 1980, CMF personnel were pulled back to a camp in and around New Sarum Airport and were flown out over the following few days.

A British Rover equipped with mine protection gear shows extensive damage from striking a mine during the peacekeeping operation in which Australians were deployed in Rhodesia, c. 1980. AWM P01940.003

 

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