A CONTINGENT of Zimbabwean military instructors earmarked for deployment to train Mozambican soldiers in the conflict-ridden northern parts of the country is currently on standby in Nyanga, while awaiting the finalisation of an agreement for the mission, The NewsHawks has established.
Last month, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told a press briefing that Zimbabwe would deploy 304 non-combatant soldiers to Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. The conflict, which broke out nearly five years ago, has resulted in the death of hundreds of civilians, while hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
Sources familiar with the developments told The NewsHawks that as Zimbabwe also prepares for the deployment of a reaction contingent amid fears that the conflict may further escalate, the instructors, drawn mainly from the special forces, are currently on standby at a military camp in Nyanga.
Delays in finalising the Status of Force Agreement for the trainers, sources added, was retarding the deployment.
“300 soldiers who are currently on standby are undergoing the training of trainers course in Nyanga. The SFA for training is the sticking point. However, while they await the finalisation of the agreement, the country and other Southern African Development Community countries are also preparing to deploy as the standy force despite indications that that violent extremists have been subdued. Militarily they could be taking a tactical withdrawal with an intention to regroup and attack,” a source said.
Nyanga is home to the Alls Arms Battle School. Defence minister Muchinguri-Kashiri could not be reached for comment.
Last month, she said the government had approved the deployment of a training team of 303 instructors to train one infantry battalion-sized unit at a time. She said the government had also approved the deployment of a specialist officer to the co-ordination mechanism of the Sadc standby force headquarters in Maputo.
“Taking cognisance that there are two major elements to the deployment, namely combat and training, the status of force agreement (SFA) signed on July 8, 2021 is confined to combat activities only,” Muchinguri-Kashiri said. “The SFA pertaining to training is yet to be signed. It must, therefore, be noted that the countries that are currently deploying are doing so on the strength of the SFA signed on July 8, 2021.”
She said the soldiers would be deployed after the signing of the SFA. Sadc should immediately push for dialogue, instead of becoming complacent after Rwandan soldiers repelled violent extremists in Mozambique’s resource-rich northern Cabo Delgado province, a Maputo-based think-tank has said.
Last month, Rwandan and Mozambican security forces fighting insurgents took control of the 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 to 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 a troop withdrawal. “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 note says, needs more financial support for its military operations in Mozambique’s conflict-ridden province.
“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 Sadc has now deployed a 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 system. — STAFF WRITER