Thabiso Scotch Mufambi
Harare – Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders are scheduled to convene for an extra-ordinary summit in Maputo this month with hopes of finally making a breakthrough on the violence plaguing Mozambique.
A Double Troika Summit of the bloc last month failed to agree on a military deployment to quell an Islamist-linked insurgency in northern Mozambique, and leaders said they would meet again before June 20.
Last month’s meeting had been widely expected to make significant headway on recommendations of a Technical Mission for deployment of around 3,000 troops, six helicopters, and other equipment to confront the terrorists in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana – Chair the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation – recently said a regional military intervention is “always an option, but it is after due analysis, advice and caution. It is the last option”.
“We have been applying our minds and meeting over it for some period now and I am glad that at every meeting, we inch closer to helping Mozambique,” President Masisi said last week after a meeting with President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania.
There have been several reports to the effect that President Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique is opposed to a regional deployment. Indications have been that he prefers bilateral deals with countries such as neighbour Zimbabwe, Rwanda and/or France.
“There are offers of help bilaterally between Mozambique and a number of countries and there are also offers of help by way of decisions that by procedure need to be sanctioned by the SADC heads of state summit,” President Masisi said. “Mozambique is a sovereign nation state. There is no brigade of SADC or any country that will enter Mozambique without its express permission and invitation.”
SADC’s common legal frameworks provide for a military intervention in cases of intrastate conflict such as the one ongoing in Cabo Delgado, but this remains subject to approval by Mozambique.
The growing crisis in Mozambique – which festered from 2017 but grabbed international attention in 2020 as the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic – has resulted in the deaths of at least 2,800 people and the displacement of about 800,00 others.
The economic and social cost has been great, with United Nations agencies calling for swift action.
Over the past three years, armed insurgents linked to Islamic State have launched dozens of attacks across Cabo Delgado, most recently pillaging the town of Palma which has led to delays in implementation of the multi-billion dollar gas projects in that region.