The SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation will elevate the Mozambique insurgency to Heads of State and Government level, amid indications that the terror attacks in the north of the country are being sponsored by external forces.
Regional leaders hold their annual Ordinary Summit in August, and security and health are expected to dominate proceedings.
Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah, a terrorist organisation that says it is an affiliate of Islamic State is seeking to establish a caliphate in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.
In three years, more than 1,000 people have been killed – many in grisly fashion – while an estimated 200,000 have been displaced.
Recently, the insurgency has expanded beyond Cabo Delgado, and in May the SADC Organ – comprising Zimbabwe (Chair), Zambia and Botswana - convened an emergency meeting where leaders condemned the terror attacks but fell short of calling for joint military action.
In an interview, Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo, who chairs the Ministerial Committee of the Organ, told The Southern Times that the matter would be discussed by SADC Heads of State.
Prior to that, he told African diplomats accredited to Harare that, “As a region we are currently considering our response to the growing and again externally sponsored insurgency in northern Mozambique which has echoes elsewhere in our sub-region.
“A region rich in mineral, agriculture and other resources, all of it (is) tempting booty for, perhaps, foreign predators angling for influence or control or manoeuvring to install more malleable, more complaint regimes in place.”
In the interview with The Southern Time, he said: “It is important to note that the security situation, not only in Mozambique but the entire SADC region, remains on the agenda of SADC and will be discussed during the Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government scheduled for August 2020.
“This is because, if not properly managed, the security situation in Mozambique has the potential to affect the entirety of the SADC region and beyond. As such, the SADC Organ under the Chairmanship of Zimbabwe has not only been focusing on the security situation in Mozambique but on other issues that help to enhance democracy and improve peace and security in the region.”
Investigations by The Southern Times point to SADC having its work cut out for it in mobilising a joint military response.
This is largely because, according to insiders, Mozambique is reluctant to allow a broad regional military contingent into its territory at the present moment, and prefers a bilateral operation with Zimbabwe.
However, Zimbabwe – which deployed extensively in Mozambique in the 1980s during that country’s civil war - is economically hamstrung.
Analysts say SADC could go the way it went in the DRC where it mandated several countries – primarily Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia – to deploy militarily in Mozambique.
Another option would be expanding logistical and intelligence support to the government in Maputo.
While SADC weighs its options, Mozambique has been exploring and implementing its own, including hiring private military contractors – parlance for registered mercenaries – to assist it in quelling the terrorist threat.
Last year, President Filipe Nyusi reportedly hired the Wagner Group, a Russian company that met limited success in dealing with Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah.
Now, the government has roped in the services of Retired Colonel Lionel Dyck, who served in both the Rhodesian and independent Zimbabwe military, and his Dyck Advisory Group (DAG).
Reports indicate DAG initially deployed 30 men who operated entirely from the air with three mchine gun-kitted helicopters, two fixed-wing aircraft, and two microlight armed spotter craft.
Their contract was recently extended after they met registered successes in warding off and eliminating terrorists, and DAG will reportedly now also train Mozambican units and possibly expand air operations while also deploying on the ground.
Rtd Col Dyck told fellow former Rhodesian serviceman Hannes Wessels, who runs a website called Africa Unauthorized that, “The Mozambique Defence Forces are unprepared and under-resourced and we have to move fast. Some of the atrocities committed (by the terrorists) are unlike anything I have seen before and I’ve seen a lot of wars, in a lot of different places.
“Despite this barbarism, this enemy is organised, motivated and well equipped. If we don’t get on top of this, it’s going to spread south fast and that will be a catastrophe for the entire region.”
Rtd Col Dyck has prior experience in Mozambique, having been part of Zimbabwe’s deployment to that country in the 1980s. Reports say he commanded the troops that seized Renamo's Casa Banana base.
DAG’s website says the company has conducted “security-based operations” in at least eight countries, including the Central African Republic, Malawi and South Africa, and now Mozambique.
According the African Union’s website, Mozambique and South Africa – along with fellow SADC members Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Mauritius and Namibia – are among 23 countries on the continent that have not signed, ratified and/or acceded to the Convention for the Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa.
Reporting by Freddy Mambara and Thabiso Scotch Mufambi in Harare