Thabiso Scotch Mufambi
Harare – SADC has wasted no time in putting into motion an Extraordinary Summit decision to deploy its Standby Force in Mozambique, where rebels have been spearheading an insurgency that has claimed nearly 3,000 lives.
It will be the region’s first counter-terrorism operation, and it is being set up as Rwanda and the European Union also said they would provide support to Mozambique’s military. SADC member state the Comoros has pledged to offer intelligence support, over and above its commitments as a member of the bloc.
After more than a year of getting Maputo to accept a regional intervention, the bloc has hit the ground running since an agreement to that effect was reached on June 23, 2021.
SADC’s Council of Ministers met virtually on June 28 “In order to analyse matters related to implementing decisions taken by the SADC summit held last week in Maputo”, said Mozambican Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mr Antonio Macheve.
Mozambican Foreign Affairs Minister Veronica Macamo chaired the meeting that approved a US$12 million to deploy the SADC Standby Force.
Angola’s Foreign Minister Tete António said funding for the deployment included a regional contingency fund and contributions from member states.
“As you know it is a question of survival of the region, the situation in Cabo Delgado is serious, the organisation has to deal with it immediately and it was determined the deadline for contributions is 9 July, but if there is a deficit of contributions from member states, we can resort to the reserve fund,” he said “One of the issues that our delegation raised is that (the situation in Mozambique) should serve as a lesson for the region, in the sense that we fine-tune our mechanisms so that when crises like that happen the region is not doing the same exercise of meetings and meetings to respond to it.”
While the financial issues are being finalised, Minister António said regional defence and security chiefs would meet to tie up technical details.
“We all have to be aware that the region is under threat from the crisis in Mozambique. We all have to respond promptly to this threat,” Minister António said.
A communiqué from last week’s Summit did not specify how many troops would be deployed, when, and which countries would be involved.
A May 2021 proposal by a technical team recommended deployment of a light infantry brigade of three battalions of 620 soldiers each and a staff of 90 for the brigade headquarters.
The recommendation includes deployment of two special forces squadrons of 70 each, an engineer’s squadron of 100, and a signals squadron of 120; 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 recommendation is six helicopters, four transport aircraft, two maritime surveillance aircraft and two unmanned aerial drones.
It remains to be seen if the technical report will be adopted in its entirety or in part.
Rebels On Notice
In addition of SADC’s intervention, the European Union on June 30 said it was establishing a military mission to help train Mozambique’s armed forces.
Rwanda is also planning to deploy to Mozambique.
“There are plans to deploy, but plans are not finalised yet,” Rwanda Defence Forces spokesman Ronald Rwivanga was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi met his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame in April where they discussed military co-operation.
On June 24, the Comoros pledged intelligence support for Mozambique during a meeting between Mozambican Foreign Affairs Minister Macamo and her Comoros counterpart Minister Dhoihir Dhoulkamal.
In addition, the United States has offered Mozambique military training assistance.
With a broad military response imminent, the terrorists have been put on notice.
President Nyusi boldly declared as much at Mozambique’s recent 46th Independence anniversary celebrations.
“The coming days will be ones of despair and agony (for the terrorists),” he said. “They (the terrorists) will be confronted in a brave and fearless manner.”
Who will lead Standby Force?
Gaborone – SADC Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, says the bloc is yet to choose which member state will be tasked with taking the lead in the deployment of a regional intervention force in Mozambique.
In May 2021, a SADC technical team headed by Brigadier Michael Mukokomani of Botswana, in his capacity as Chief of Staff of the SADC Standby Force, recommended a military intervention.
At an Extraordinary Summit of the bloc in Maputo in late June, SADC leaders agreed to deploy the Standby Force to Mozambique where Islamist-linked rebels have killed more than 2,800 people and displaced an estimated 800,000 others since they began an insurgency in 2017.
After that meeting, President Masisi told the media in Botswana that every member state would contribute financially to the mission. An initial US$12 million budget has been set for the intervention.
“It was not an easy decision to make but at long last we believe we took the right decision. SADC as a bloc is implementing some of its ideals such as ensuring that there is peace and stability in the region; an injury to one is an injury to all,” said President Masisi.
He explained that troops were not being deployed on an offensive mission but rather to help restore peace and normalcy to Mozambique’s besieged Cabo Delgado Province, where the rebels are hitting hardest.
President Masisi also said SADC did not impose itself but had been invited by Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi to assist. President Nyusi chairs SADC.
He said the region also agreed that should Mozambique feel the need to seek help from the wider international community, it was at liberty to do so.
“Mozambique is a sovereign state and therefore it is free to seek assistance from the international community, and doing that does not mean undermining SADC. We also agreed that the assistance should be in line with SADC’s vision of a shared future in an environment of peace, security and stability in the region,” said President Masisi.
The SADC force, he said, would help displaced people and offer technical assistance to the Mozambican military. He, however, said if provoked the regional deployment would act accordingly.
“It’s (Mozambique) today and tomorrow we might need their assistance,” President Masisi added.