Maseru – Lesotho stands ready to deploy its armed forces to assist Mozambique fight insurgents in the oil-rich Cabo Delgado region of that country, Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister ‘Matsepo Ramakoae has said.
At a media briefing this week, Minister Ramakoae said Lesotho would contribute troops if SADC decided that a force must be sent to fight the insurgents.
“Lesotho is a member of SADC, and if SADC says our people should go, they will definitely go to assist in Mozambique as part of SADC,” she said.
Minister Ramakoae said a decision on whether or not to deploy a SADC fighting and peacekeeping unit would be made at a meeting of the bloc’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation in Beira, Mozambique on April 29.
“It’s not just a question of human assistance. It’s also a question of what type of equipment you’re going to use. There are studies to be done on exactly what needs to be used. And also, the strategy is aligned with the type of assistance,” she explained.
She said Lesotho was also on high alert for any early signs that the threat of terror was spreading into the kingdom.
“The insurgency could spill to us because Mozambique is not far. We have to be on guard, civil society groups are already watching out. We need to make sure that we address this issue before it affects us,” Minister Ramakoae said.
Lying on Indian Ocean coast of Southern Africa, Mozambique shares borders with Eswatini, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Since 2017, insurgents linked to Islamic state have wreaked havoc, killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands of others in their quest to establish a caliphate in the region.
According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) there were at least 570 violent incidents involving the rebels in 2020 alone. The rising tide of violence has prompted SADC to despatch a technical team to Mozambique ahead of a possible bloc-led military deployment to the country.
Unlike the Economic Community of West African States, SADC does not have a standing army though it has the policy infrastructure to establish one.