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Mozambique scuppers Sadc troop deployment

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MOZAMBIQUE is expected to veto the deployment of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) standby troops to the country’s northern Cabo Delgado province after it emerged that a technical team tasked by the regional bloc to assess the situation in the conflict-troubled region failed to carry out a comprehensive job, The NewsHawks has established.

Information gathered by this publication shows that new light has emerged on why the authorities in Maputo blocked the deployment of troops to the natural gas-endowed region which has become the epicentre of violent extremism.

Adriano Nuvunga, a political scientist based in Mozambique who heads a think-tank, the Centre for Democracy and Development, said on the day Sadc was expected to convene a meeting to endorse the deployment of troops, President Filipe Nyusi travelled to Kigali to meet his Rwandan counterpart. 

This, he said, demonstrated Maputo’s reluctance to invite Sadc troops. As extensively reported by The NewsHawks, Nyusi prefers a bilateral approach instead of collective regional military action in tackling the insurgency.

“We were told that the technical team did not have the opportunity to have a physical visit. They might have been flying over the area, but were not able to access the ground for physical verification, engage with people including seeing some of the impact. So this, of course, would have affected the solidity and the analysis,” Nuvunga said in an interview with The NewsHawks.

“We were not convinced by the Sadc technical team’s assessment of the situation. The intelligence is really not convincing so we have learnt that this was due to the lack of access to the site and also to be able to meet with relevant stakeholders (at regional, provincial and local levels).”

Information gathered shows that the technical team was working from the Glory Hotel, which usually hosts Sadc officials whenever the regional bloc convenes meetings in Maputo. Botswana, sources said, paid the air travel, accommodation and meal expenses although the technical team did not work closely with the Maputo authorities. 

“You would have seen that our President travelled to Rwanda precisely the day that the summit was supposed to take place which was postponed on the grounds that are not convincing to us. We have seen summits taking place without heads of state but with their representatives. We believe that the summit could have taken place without the President and that their representatives would have carried their authorities. With my President (Nyusi) travelling to Rwanda, that also sends a message to the relationship with the Sadc technical team and also the fact that this whole report was leaked is also an indication that something might have not gone the right way.”

Questions emailed to Sadc on Thursday were not responded to at the time of publication.

The developments come after the eleventh-hour postponement of a crucial meeting between Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique set for Maputo to finalise the urgent intervention road map and action. 

The delay of the Sadc troika summit of the organ on politics, defence and security cooperation – which includes President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, the chair, incoming chair President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and outgoing chair Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa – followed the extraordinary foreign affairs ministerial committee meeting of the same body last week in the Mozambican capital. 

The Sadc intervention force would comprise three light infantry battalions of 620 soldiers each, a light infantry battalion headquarters with 90 troops, two special forces squadrons of 70 soldiers each, 100 engineers, 100 logistics coordinators, 120 signals experts and 42 technicians, among other military personnel.

There are also helicopters as well as transport aircraft, patrol ships, a submarine and a maritime aircraft to patrol the Cabo Delgado coastline to intercept insurgents’ movements, supplies and combat their drug trafficking activities, said to be a source of their financing for the insurgency. 

The technical assessment team also recommended a phased approach implemented in four stages: deployment of intelligence assets (land, air and maritime) to understand the insurgents’ operations; special forces and naval equipment; pacification operations and withdrawal. 

This plan entails the deployment of Sadc troops to support the local army, providing the Mozambican military with training and support; and ensuring logistical support. 

These combined and self-reinforcing actions are ultimately designed to neutralise the insurgents whose centres of gravity, including strategic, operational, tactical, critical capabilities, needs, strengths and vulnerabilities issues, were identified by the Sadc technical team.

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