After several months of diplomatic negotiations, the 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) had finally approved the deployment of joint military force with the primary responsibility of ensuring peace and stability, and for restoring normalcy in Mozambique.
The standby force, a notable result of negotiations, will be part of a regional defence pact that allows military intervention to prevent the spread of conflict.SADC Executive Secretary, Stergomena Lawrence Tax, announced on June 23, end of the Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held at Joaquim Chissano International Conference Centre in Maputo, Republic of Mozambique.
The central theme of the summit dealt on the regional response and support in combating terrorism. It was planned to assess the results achieved in pursuit of the motto “SADC: 40 Years of Building Peace and Security and Promoting Resilience in the Face of Global Challenges” during the summit.A bloc of southern African nations has approved the deployment of troops to Mozambique, to help the country combat a rapidly escalating Islamic State-linked insurgency that threatens stability in the relatively peaceful region, according to the communique issued following a meeting of the southern African leaders in Maputo.
The communique, however, provided no further details on how many troops would be involved, when they would be deployed or what their role would be, adding only that humanitarian aid must be channelled to those most in need. The decision brings to an end months of deliberation and disagreement among the bloc about what is needed to stem an insurgency that threatens to open up southern Africa’s first jihadi front.
While some members, like South Africa, have pushed for military action, others were reportedly more reticent. Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has historically been resistant to foreign boots on his grounds, but now, during the opening, he loudly reiterated that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should be Mozambique’s main partner in the fight against terrorism in Cabo Delgado.
“We are certain that we will have SADC as an active and main player in this fight. We will not rest until we find the final victory: which is peace and progress in every corner of our region,” President Nyusi said, speaking during the opening of the extraordinary summit of the organization. President Nyusi, who is also the current president of SADC, said the organization’s member countries have a responsibility to defend their sovereignty, ensuring conditions for a common development project.
That terrorism is a global threat, a problem that requires joint intervention and based on other experiences, acknowledged, and added “our analysis must take into account some terrorist cells scattered in the region, aware that ensuring success in this fight against this scourge is to safeguard our cultural and socio-economic values.”
In the meanwhile, the European Union military mission to support and train up Mozambican troops to tackle an escalating insurgency linked to Islamic State could be approved next month, in July.Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told lawmakers at a parliamentary committee in Lisbon that he hoped the mission would be given the green light during the next meeting of EU foreign ministers scheduled for July 12.
“We hope that…it will be formally approved so we can launch this European mission to support Mozambique in the fight against terrorism”, Santos Silva said.
Mozambique has been grappling with an insurgency in its northernmost province of Cabo Delgado since 2017 and violence has grown significantly in the past year. Dozens of civilians were killed in Islamic State-linked attacks in the coastal town of Palma in April, and a US$20 billion liquefied natural gas project run by oil giant Total was brought to a halt by the violence.
EU Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, said in May the EU could have a military training mission in place in Mozambique within several months, acknowledging the problem was finding additional countries besides Portugal to supply troops. Portugal, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency until the end of the month, has already sent 60 soldiers to Mozambique to train local troops.
According to the United Nations, more than 900,000 people are under severe food insecurity in Cabo Delgado, and host communities are in urgent need of shelter, protection and other services.
The SADC comprises 16 states: Mozambique, Angola, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zambia and Comoros.
Within its framework, the bloc is to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development, forge deeper cooperation and integration, to ensure good governance and durable peace and security, so that the region emerges as a competitive and an effective player in the southern region, in Africa and the world.