Harare- A growing Islamist insurgency in northern Mozambique will come under the spotlight November 27 when Botswana hosts an Extraordinary Summit of the Southern African Development Community’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation.
The meeting will be attended by Heads of State and Government from Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, in their capacities as the incumbent, incoming and outgoing chairpersons of the organ respectively.
Malawi and Tanzania will also attend as part of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) Troop Contributing Countries under the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The UN is pushing for downsizing of SADC’s military participation in the DRC mission, something the regional bloc is opposed to.
In a statement ahead of the indaba, SADC said, “His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana, and Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, will on Friday, 27 November, 2020 host the Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit, Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) Troop Contributing Countries Plus Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Republic of Mozambique to discuss emerging peace and security issues in the region.
“The Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit will be preceded by the meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ which will be held on 26 November, 2020.”
The insurgency in Mozambique - which started in October 2017 - has intensified this year, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 2,500 people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of others.
An Islamic State-affiliated group calling itself Al Sunnah wa Jama'ah (ASWJ) is behind the insurgency, saying it wants to establish a “Caliphate of Central Africa”. Among the most shocking of its recent atrocities is the beheading at least 50 people.
SADC has previously expressed solidarity and pledged support for Mozambique, but there has been little evidence of a concrete regional plan to stop ASWJ from causing further anarchy.
The attacks by the ASWJ are concentrated in the north of the Southern African country where investment totalling US$60 billion is being poured into development of natural gas capacity.
In the interim, Mozambique has had to employ diverse strategies in response to the unravelling security situation, including hiring mercenaries for assistance, initially the Wagner Group from Russia and then Retired Colonel Lionel Dyck, who served in both the Rhodesian and Zimbabwe military.
In September, Mozambique wrote to the European Union asking for help in training its armed forces to battle ASWJ, while Portugal and France are understood to also be keen on individually intervening for their own economic interests.
Reports have also emerged of an unlikely loose alliance of the United States and Zimbabwe potentially assisting the Mozambican government. Recently, Zimbabwe’s President Emerson Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe was ready to assist Mozambique.
Indications have been that Mozambique favours assistance from Zimbabwe rather than from SADC as a bloc.
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces played a key role in ending a decades-old civil war in Mozambique in 1992. However, this time around, Zimbabwe is understood to be only willing to return to such a theatre in concert with other SADC countries.
South Africa, as the region’s economic powerhouse, has offered support, but the ASWJ has hit back saying it will “open a fighting front inside South African borders” if Tshwane assists Maputo.