President Robert Mugabe has promoted 24 army officers to the ranks of colonel and lieutenant colonel. Speaking in the president's name at a ceremony Wednesday in the capital, Zimbabwe National Army Major-General Engel Bert Rugenje commended the officers for their hard work, saying the sky is the limit for those who do so.

But political analysts said the unusually large number of promotions suggested that the president is trying to secure the loyalty of senior officers given the possibility that sporadic protests over deteriorating living standards could multiply in 2007.

But the main beneficiaries of Mugabe?s benevolence have been senior army officials, who earn much more than junior officers and are given luxury vehicles and farms.

Former air force officer Solomon Chikovera told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the number of officer promoted is unusually large - and that the new colonels are likely to be more subject to political pressures.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...