SADC pushes for deployment of 3 000-strong military force in northern Mozambique

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Chaos erupted in the area of Palma in Mozambique.
Chaos erupted in the area of Palma in Mozambique.
Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • A special report by the head of the Southern African Development Community's Standby Force recommends a large military deployment in Mozambique.
  • This will be in the northern Cabo Delgado province which has recently seen deadly attacks by miltants.
  • A special SADC Troika summit is due to take place this week. 

Regional heads of state will be asked to consider the immediate deployment of almost 3 000 personnel, comprising of more than 2 000 ground troops, to help the Mozambican military "combat threat of terrorism and acts of violent extremism" in the northern Cabo Delgado province, alongside air and naval assets.

This is contained in a special report by the Southern African Development Community Double Troika Plus Angola Technical Assessment Mission, which was tasked three weeks ago with considering what support Mozambique needed to help contain the threat.

READ | Mozambique attacks: SA man uses AK-47 he found in abandoned government vehicle to ward off insurgents

This week’s special summit, due to take place on Wednesday and Thursday, follows after a special summit was called on 7-8 April. It follows a deadly attack in Palma which for the first time also targeted foreign workers.

The attack also led to Total pausing construction of its liquefied natural gas plant in nearby Afungi.

According to the report, there had been a "considerable lull in activities" since then, but it said "the possibilities of renewed attacks are high after Ramadan" and "does not rule out the likelihood of attacks during the fasting period". 

The insurgency has jihadist elements to it and, according to the report, they receive external support from "individuals in various countries". 

It's still not known from where they got their weapons for the recent Palma attack, but their main suppliers are suspected to be the Islamic State of the Central Africa Province. 

Territory 

The leaked SADC report, signed by Botswana’s Brigadier Michael Mukokomani, chief of staff of the SADC Standby Force, states that Mozambique needs help with logistics and intelligence, as well as boots on the ground, to retake territory such as the strategic port of Mocimboa da Praia, which has been under insurgent control since August last year.

It recommends that 2 916 personnel be deployed, the bulk of which should be ground forces, and including 140 special force members.

The special forces should go in first to "conduct targeted operations" in parallel with naval assets to "eliminate maritime crime in the Area of Operation".

READ | SA security firm evacuates 230 people via helicopter from Mozambique

It also recommends that 100 members of a logistics company go in to support the operations, by setting up a field hospital and field recovery, and another 100 members be deployed to help with air support, including four air intelligence personnel.

It calls on the SADC to deploy six helicopters, four transport aircraft, two maritime surveillance aircraft and two "unmanned aerial vehicles", or drones.

Mukokomani’s report recommends that the port city of Nacala be used as the SADC force’s point of entry, from where resources would be distributed to relevant points in the Cabo Delgado province through an integrated logistics base in Pemba.

It recommends that the operation should start with the deployment of land, air and maritime "intelligence assets" and personnel to support the Mozambique Armed Defence Forces (FADM), "in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the terrorists’ activities".

It also said there should be a rapid deployment comprised of special forces and naval assets "to conduct targeted operations and eliminate maritime crime" in the area where the operations will be.

Phase

The third phase of the operation would consist of "pacification operation", while the fourth phase would be withdrawal.

The report also recommends the establishment of a coordination mechanism in Maputo prior to the deployment of the SADC Standby Force, as well as logistics and training support to strengthen the FADM’s capability to combat terrorism.

There should also be humanitarian relief to people affected by the insurgency, including for those internally displaced.

Funding of the operations will come from the SADC Contingency Fund, member states funds, and "also mobilised continental and international partners and stakeholders".

Ministers and officials ware due to meet in Maputo on Wednesday in an extraordinary meeting of the ministerial committee of the SADC’s defence and security organ, while heads of state will meet on Thursday in a summit of the Organ for Politics Defence and Security.

These are expected to be Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and Mozambique’s Filipe Nyusi, while President Cyril Ramaphosa will be represented by members of his executive. Ramaphosa is expected to be in Braamfontein to continue his testimony on behalf of the ANC at the commission of inquiry into state capture.

Mozambican news agency Zitamar News has questioned whether SADC countries had the capacity for such a big deployment, and also whether Mozambique would accept it, as it had shunned military support in the past.

It also asked whether a military approach "can deliver a sustainable solution to the insurgency in Cabo Delgado which is driven in large part by local discontent".

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