AT the beginning, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) got a lot of flak for failure to react rapidly and swiftly move into Mozambique’s gas-rich Cabo Delgado region which is under siege from Islamic extremism-driven insurgents.
The jihadists are fighting to seize control of the region now buzzing with economic activity dominated by international liquefied natural gas companies. Since 2017, the insurgents have been violently pushing to grab that territory.
In the process, terrorists have seized a lot of strategic ground, including Mocímboa da Praia, their capital, a port town in the north which lies on the Indian Ocean coastline.
Sadc was expected to quickly come up with an intervention plan which entailed military deployment.
But this has proved to be very difficult. So people are asking why. Is it because Sadc is bureaucratic, tardy, lethargic, dysfunctional or simply lacks leadership?
Some are wondering, is it that Sadc is just a toothless bulldog?
Most of these insinuations are true. Yes, indeed, there is bureaucracy in Sadc; the regional bloc is rather lethargic in taking action and doesn’t have strong leadership when it comes to dealing with regional and geopolitical issues.
Sadc has always shown over the years that it finds it difficult to intervene whenever there are problems in the region. Zimbabwe is a case in point. Sadc procrastinated, and failed to resolve the country’s protracted and intractable problems destabilising the region.
However, it has now come to light that Sadc is actually struggling to clear hurdles to deploy its standby force into Mozambique to help fight the deadly insurgency. It wants to intervene, but it is being stymied.
In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that Maputo is resisting foreign military intervention. It is only interested in limited bilateral military help not a full-scale regional intervention. As previously reported by The NewsHawks in detail, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi further confirmed in a speech two weeks ago that the situation was under control and sounded categorically opposed to the plan of foreign troops getting involved in combat in the conflict.
This came as Mozambican Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosário, speaking to parliament on 21 April, tried to side step the debate and downplay the issue of foreign military deployment, while confirming bilateral regional arrangements.
Rosario confirmed Mozambique is already receiving some forms of military support from its Sadc neighbours, although he declined to elaborate on the details and nature of the support. Instead, he insisted that he couldn’t disclose military details as that was a sensitive matter, hence not for public consumption.
As reported by The NewHawks recently amid feeble official denials, Zimbabwe has already deployed special forces into Mozambique to help fight the jihadists calling themselves Al-Shabaab, an insurgent group that has an unclear affiliation with the Islamic State, although not related to Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
While Nyusi is subtly opposed to foreign intervention, Renamo leader Ossufo Momade explicitly last week called for direct intervention in Cabo Delgado by Sadc countries, saying the Frelimo government was not as concerned about national sovereignty as it appears to be now because it previously invited foreign troops to help fight the rebel movement during the Mozambican civil war.
Echoing Nyusi’s sentiment, Frelimo secretary-general Roque Silva, in contrast, told reporters that foreign troops would not be effective in Cabo Delgado. He said Mozambique only needed logistical support for its troops battling insurgents.
Security sources have told The NewsHawks that Nyusi thinks inviting foreign troops in Mozambique would undermine its sovereignty, regionalise the conflict and invite more terrorists into it, expose shortcomings of his poorly-trained army and the root causes of the war to outsiders, which are largely local when his narrative largely locates them outside.
Nyusi emphasises foreign sponsorship of the insurgents and not local conditions, including marginalisation, dislocation, exclusion, unemployment and poverty, which have bred the uprising.
In his speech, during the recent double Sadc troika meeting on 8 April in Maputo – the meeting of the main body troika, Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi, and the troika of the organ on politics, defence and security which comprises Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, he highlighted external factors more than domestic issues.
Despite do Rosário’s attempts to downplay military matters, the foreign intervention debate came against the backdrop of a leaked Sadc deployment which has been met with vociferous criticism from some sections of Mozambican civil society.
The Sadc technical team visited Mozambique from 15 April to 21 April. It drew a plan for the deployment of 2 916 personnel, including 140 special forces, as well as seven helicopters, five fixed-wing manned aircraft, four drones, two surface patrol ships, and a submarine.
The bulk of the forces – 1 860 troops in all – would come in the form of three light infantry battalions.
But the biggest stumbling block to Sadc deployment to rescue Mozambicans from the conflict is now clearer: it’s Mozambique.
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