Gaborone – Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have all pledged troop deployments to assist Mozambique quell an extremist insurgency in the north of that country, while other SADC member states have committed support in other ways.
The entire region is now on high alert for retributive attacks in SADC member states in retaliation to the bloc’s deployment in Mozambique.
SADC leaders in June resolved to deploy the bloc’s Standby Force to fight Islamist terrorists who have killed around 3,000 people and displaced over 800,000 others in Mozambique since they began their quest in 2017 to establish a caliphate in Central and Southern Africa.
SADC started deploying soldiers and equipment in Mozambique about a fortnight ago. Rwanda has also sent in military and police units, while the European Union and United States are providing technical support.
Addressing legislators this week, Botswana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Dr Lemogang Kwape, said Southern Africa was prepared for any reprisals by extremists across the region.
Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi Chairs the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation.
Dr Kwape pointed out that it would be irresponsible to provide details as to the countermeasures that were being operationalised in this regard.
He said the bloc had agreed that South Africa would take the force command position, deputised by Botswana.
“I must emphasise that thwarting terrorism attacks are complex and challenging for the international community and even more so for one country on its own. This is so because terrorists operate with no regards for the rule of law. It, therefore, calls for a regional and co-ordinated response to address this new threat to our common security before it spills over to the entire region. In this regard no member state should face the threat alone,” said Dr Kwape.
“The security situation in Mozambique cannot be allowed to deteriorate any further. As a region we need to act in a comprehensive manner. It is our hope that the SADC intervention in Mozambique will assist the country rid itself of these acts of terrorism and enjoy a lasting peace and realise social economic transformation or the benefit of the entire region,” he added.
Angola, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe have already confirmed that their troops are already on the ground or en route to Mozambique.
Angola said that it plans to send two officers in the Regional Co-operation Mechanism, eight officers in the Force Command and ten crew members for an IL-76 strategic air projection craft.
Botswana this week dispatched nearly 300 soldiers to Mozambique as part of the SADC Standby Force.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised deployment of 1,495 military personnel at an expected cost of US$66.3 million from July 15 to October 15.
Zimbabwe has announced a contingent of more than 300 soldiers, among them instructors and “specialist” officers.
Namibian Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah confirmed her country was providing support to the mission.
“There are numbers agreed that should be sent and that is the reason why we are not sending any (soldiers) this time,” she said.
Full details of SADC’s deployment are yet to be made public.
However, a May 2021 proposal by a SADC technical team headed by Brigadier Michael Mukokomani of Botswana, in his capacity as the Chief of Staff of the SADC Standby Force, recommended the deployment of a light infantry brigade of three battalions of 620 soldiers each and a staff of 90 for the brigade headquarters.
The recommendation also included the deployment of two special forces squadrons of 70 each, an engineer’s squadron of 100, and a signals squadron of 120. This was in addition to a logistics company of 100 and four intelligence operatives; two patrol ships with a crew of 180 each, and two submarines with a crew of 45.
For air support, the SADC technical committee recommended the deployment of six helicopters, four transport aircraft, two maritime surveillance aircraft and two unmanned aerial drones.
Meanwhile, The New Times reported this week that Mozambican and Rwandan troops overran one of the main bases of the terrorists in Cabo Delgado on July 26.
This was a day after Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi told the nation on July 25 that the country’s military had seized terrorist positions at Diaca, Roma and Nantili.
President Nyusi expressed his gratitude to African countries for sending troops to help fight the insurgents. He lauded soldiers already deployed by Rwanda and SADC.
He urged Mozambicans not to fear the presence of foreign forces in their country, adding: “We should be afraid of being alone in fighting terrorism.”