ED: SADC mobilising joint force to intervene in Mozambique

A woman in Cabo Delgado looks at her home, torched by militants (pic: Jorge Marcos)

SADC is preparing its regional standby force to intervene in Mozambique, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said, after a Thursday meeting in Maputo on how to end the growing Cabo Delgado insurgency.

The meeting ended with SADC leaders agreeing “an immediate technical deployment” to prepare “a proportionate regional response” to the militant attacks that have killed over 2,000 and displaced at least 700,000.

Mnangagwa said intervention would be through the “intervention brigade”, a likely reference to either the Southern African Development Community Brigade (SADCBRIG), a regional unit made up of military, police and civilian members from all SADC nations, or the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), a SADC unit that successfully deployed against rebels in eastern DRC.

“First, we had the Troika itself, which sat and adopted the recommendations of the Ministers of Defence and Security which, in the main, included the need to have SADC take responsibility in dealing with the threat in Cabo Delgado, in the sense that SADC, through its intervention brigade – our SADC force – should be resuscitated and capacitated immediately so that it can intervene, as SADC,” Mnangagwa said.

A committee of defence and security chiefs that leads the brigade, Mnangagwa said, would now meet to put the SADC plan in motion.

“What is happening now, is that the defence and security chiefs have the responsibility now to implement the decisions of the double troika,” Mnangagwa said.

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Earlier, SADC released a statement short on detail on the region’s plans.

“The Double Troika Summit directed an immediate technical deployment to the Republic of Mozambique, and the convening of an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ by 28 April 2021 that will report to the Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit on 29 April 2021,” a communique at the end of the meeting said.

Ahead of the meeting, Mozambican President Nyusi appeared again reluctant to call for a full intervention, saying he instead preferred targeted assistance that allowed his country to take the lead in responding to the crisis.

“Our government has told the international community the needs for the fight against terrorism, and these needs are being assessed,” Nyusi said in a speech on Wednesday. “Those who arrive from abroad will not replace us, they will support us. It is not empty pride. It is a sense of sovereignty.”

Nyusi said a military response alone would not end the conflict, which has been fed by poverty in what is the country’s poorest region. The deprivation has worsened is in the shadows of new multibillion-dollar energy projects being developed by France’s Total and American company ExxonMobil.

Foreign intervention in what is a localised conflict may prove complicated for the region, where no country has experience in fighting Islamic insurgencies.

Security analyst Jasmine Opperman of the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which has been monitoring the insurgency as it festered over the past decade, has cautioned that intervention would be complex.

“It is not a quick fix and with insurgent numbers that have significantly increased, this requires a sustained presence for at least two years,” she said.