South Africa will lead the troops of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) against the terrorist groups operating in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, with Botswana assisting, but Mozambique will have an overall co-ordination role, the Chief of Staff of the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM), Joaquim Mangrasse, has said.
At a graduation ceremony for Mozambican marines trained at Katembe, in the Bay of Maputo, Mangrasse said Mozambique would provide the General Staff for the entire anti-terrorist operation.
Nine Mozambican officers have been chosen to be in all positions of co-ordination, although each SADC country will command its own forces, with South Africa, as the country with the largest force, in overall control.
“We are part of the coordination mechanism of this force, occupying the position of General Staff”, said Mangrasse.
He also said officers from the EU were training Mozambican marines in Katembe, and special forces in the central city of Chimoio.
Defence Minister Jaime Neto, who chaired last Friday’s graduation ceremony, said the presence of foreign troops fighting terrorists in Cabo Delgado did not diminish the role of Mozambique itself, and that Mozambicans still had the primary role in defending the country.
Minister Neto urged the marines to defend human rights, and not to become viewed as criminals.
“The difference is clear”, he said. “The terrorists kill the population, while you protect the population. There should be no tolerance for violations of human rights, he stressed, which might lead the public to confuse the Mozambican defence forces with the terrorists.”
He added that “some terrorists use our uniforms to perpetrate macabre actions which are later attributed to the FADM”.
And on Sunday, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi expressed gratitude to African countries sending troops to help fight insurgents in the north of the country.
The 16-member Southern African Development Community agreed late last month to send troops to Mozambique’s insurgent-hit Cabo Delgado province. That military intervention was formalised a week after east African nation Rwanda announced it was starting to deploy 1,000 troops to the area.
President Nyusi said, “The mandate of foreign forces is to help Mozambican forces restore peace and stability. We should not fear the presence of foreign forces in our country. We should be afraid of being alone in fighting terrorism.”
He also said, “Rwandan troops have come to save lives in a province where we have people being killed and beheaded every day. We couldn’t deny any available assistance.”
Botswana announced earlier on Sunday that President Mokgweetsi Masisi would be bidding farewell to defence forces leaving for Mozambique on Monday, without providing further details.
The violence in Cabo Delgado has driven around 826,000 people from their homes and claimed more than 2,000 lives, according to President Nyusi.
The Mozambican government last week promised to work to ensure the success of the SADC mission.
Foreign Minister Veronica Macamo made the pledge during a meeting with the special representative of the SADC Standby Force, Mpho Molomo of Botswana, who is effectively the diplomatic face of the mission.
Minister Macamo said “the Mozambican government would collaborate in all that is necessary for the success of the mission”.
The arrival of the Standby Force, she added, was a symbol of the efforts of African leaders to eradicate terrorism.
“We shall join our efforts to say that, on our continent, and particularly in SADC, we don’t want terrorism,” she stressed.
Moloma responded: “We are here, at the invitation of the Mozambican government, with the mandate of bringing the solidarity of SADC, and to make operational the mutual defence pact which establishes that an attack against one is an attack against all.”
The SADC mission is due to last for three months, but this mandate can be extended depending on how the situation evolves in the theatre of operations. The exact size of the Standby Force has yet to be confirmed, but a report from a technical mission presented to the SADC summit held in Maputo in late June recommended the immediate dispatch of a force of almost 3,000 troops to Cabo Delgado.The detailed proposal was for three light infantry battalions of 630 troops each, two special forces squadrons of 70 troops each; two attack helicopters; two armed helicopters; two surface patrol ships; one submarine; one maritime surveillance aircraft as well as other logistical support. – The World News/Urrdu Point/AIM