A Mozambique-based think-tank has invalidated an intelligence report presented by the Sadc technical assessment mission which is pushing for the deployment of troops in the country’s conflict-ridden northern province, a report has shown.
This comes as Sadc’s comprehensive emergency military intervention plan to deploy a standby force to combat marauding insurgents still occupying strategic ground in the natural gas-rich Cabo Delgado province has been put on ice.
A leaked detailed document of the Sadc military plan drawn by the technical team shows that regional leaders, following the technical assessment mission, wanted immediate deployment of security forces covering maritime, air and ground strategic areas.
The technical assessment team came up with a detailed deployment plan and recommended that Sadc dispatch a force of 2 916 soldiers to Cabo Delgado to “combat and neutralise” the insurgents and recapture territory they have taken, including their capital, Mocímboa da Praia.
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has discredited key findings of the report as prospects of any collective military action appear remote.
According to an analysis by the think-tank, titled Observations Relating to the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Technical Assessment Mission’s report (Intelligence Analysis), sections of the intelligence analysis gathered by the Sadc technical team are “are highly questionable and merit further scrutiny.”
Commenting on claims that violent extremists were likely going to scale up insurgent attacks after Ramadan, the CDD said: “Over the previous three years of the conflict, there has been little clear correlation of attacks to the Ramadan / Eid al Fitr period (and this year was no different). Though attacks have frequently increased in the period of March-June, this is likely due to environmental conditions related to the transition from rainy to dry season. The historic record of attacks shows little difference – either of a decrease or increase – in operational cadence during Ramadan compared to the periods immediately before or after. Conversely, Salafi-Jihadi groups elsewhere in the world frequently escalate attacks significantly during the Ramadan/Eid periods. The report’s correlation of Ramadan with VE (violent extremist) activity likely stems from an incorrect view that seeks to exaggerate external Salafi-Jihadi/Islamic State (IS) influence in order to obfuscate local socio-economic grievances in motivating conflict.”
The research unit also disputed claims that the violent extremists were attacking both local and foreign businesses.
“Though local businesses have been a frequent target over the course of the conflict, damage to foreign-owned businesses has been mostly of a collateral nature, with very limited specific targeting. Despite damage to some foreign businesses, the initial attack in Palma on 24 March 2021 followed the established violent extremist (VE) modus operandi of priority targeting of FDS (Mozambique Defence and Security Forces) and government facilities, with damage to foreign business only occurring in subsequent looting of the town. Additionally, much of the reported looting of foreign businesses is likely to have been conducted after the withdrawal of large VE concentrations from the town in the first week of April,” the report reads.
Turning to claims that the insurgents were receiving external support from individuals from various countries, the CDD said although there have been reports of individuals among violent extremism from outside the region, these are likely irregular cases and there is no evidence that this represents a significant flow of fighters or equipment.
“The VE arsenal is entirely composed of locally available equipment, with most of it being looted from captured FDS bases. VE have demonstrated no advanced capabilities, which would normally accompany outside support from IS (Islamic State), such as the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Again, this claim likely stems from a view to exaggerate external influence rather than acknowledging the overwhelming conflict driver, which is intrinsically linked to local grievances,” the report reads.
The research unit also trashed claims of aggressive and continuous radicalisation, recruitment, causing fear and panic within the local population in order to expand the caliphate in Cabo Delgado and to the Sadc region.
“Though VE have voiced their ambition to establish some form of local autonomy or control, underpinned by stricter Islam, there has been no realistic rhetoric from VE of establishing or expanding a ‘caliphate’ in line with Salafi-Jihadi principles. An expansion beyond Cabo Delgado (never mind the wider Sadc region) is unrealistic and demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the current situation. VE have limited local objectives, as previously discussed, and therefore any terror threat to other Sadc countries – aside from southern Tanzania – is likely to come from homegrown extremism rather than originating from Cabo Delgado,” the report reads.
In April, Sadc made an eleventh-hour postponement of a crucial meeting between Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique set for Maputo to finalise the urgent intervention roadmap 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 in the Mozambican capital.
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