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Moza conflict needs more than military solution

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THE Southern African Development Community (Sadc) should immediately push for dialogue instead of becoming complacent after Rwandan soldiers repelled violent extremists in Mozambique’s resource-rich northern province, a Maputo-based think-tank has said.

BERNARD MPOFU

Last week, Rwandan and Mozambican security forces fighting insurgents took control of port city of Mocímboa da Praia, which had been a major stronghold of the insurgency for more than two years.

The town is near the site of natural gas projects worth US$60 billion which had to be stopped after the conflict escalated.

The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in its latest research note warned of more insurgency if the violent extremists regroup while Mozambique’s allies plan to withdraw troops.

“This is certainly not the time for complacency or premature victory celebrations, as the violent extremist organisation in Cabo Delgado is far from defeated,” Adriano Nuvunga of the CDD said in the research note.

“While it is possible to suppress violent extremism in the short-term, resolution is unrealistic through military means alone, as there is a need to address underlying drivers. This can only be achieved through dialogue, negotiations, and compromise, otherwise there will be a resurgence of violent extremism, possibly with greater intensity and external support. While the scale and context of the situation in Afghanistan is vastly different, it demonstrates that 20 years of multinational military operations, in the absence of timely negotiations, has only resulted in further empowering the Taliban.”

Sadc, the research noted, needs more financial support for its military operations in the conflict-ridden region.

“Any further funding however should be predicated on defining success for the Sadc deployment to prevent self-perpetuating intervention in Mozambique. This is important to prevent the interests of troop-contributing countries going beyond stabilisation of Cabo Delgado and expanding to financial gain and projection of influence,” the CDD said.

“However, without wholesale transformation of the FADM (Mozambique Defence Forces) to dramatically improve their capabilities (which is likely to take years) Mozambican forces cannot, on their own, provide the security and protection required in Cabo Delgado. Therefore, dialogue and negotiations — at the earliest opportunity — must be the priority.”

While the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) has now deployed some military contingent on the ground, it has been Rwanda that has stolen the show with a performance that has not only helped to push back the militants, but also exposed the lethargy and ineptitude of regional leaders and their security systems.

Sadc leaders held meetings in Harare, Gaborone and Maputo — a number of meetings, both physically and virtually — since May last year to work out an intervention strategy, but internal divisions, suspicions and lethargy stalled the effort. After endless meetings, Sadc agreed to deploy in April.

Regional leaders said the Sadc Standby Force should deploy to help Mozambique, which needed help with logistics and intelligence, as well as boots on the ground, to retake territory, particularly the strategic port of Mocimboa da Praia.

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

The special forces would go in first to “conduct targeted operations”, in parallel with naval assets to “eliminate maritime crime in the area of operation”.

It also recommended 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 called on the Sadc to deploy six helicopters, four transport aircraft, two maritime surveillance aircraft and two “unmanned aerial vehicles”, or drones.

However, Sadc stalled on the swift deployment. It took a long while for South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe to send troops to Mozambique.

Yet the bilateral arrangement between Rwanda and Mozambique led to faster deployment, turning the tide against the violent extremists.

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