Cabinet will soon meet to decide on what assistance to offer Mozambique following last week’s agreement by SADC to deploy forces to help quell a bloody jihadist insurgency wreaking havoc in the northern parts of that country over the past three years.
International relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah yesterday told New Era that the country is still to decide on what assistance to offer Mozambique to combat terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado.
“Since the agreement was only signed last week and this agreement has a lot of components in it which include personnel, logistics, training and resources, Cabinet will soon sit to decide on how Namibia will participate,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is also the country’s deputy prime minister. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has rubber-stamped a plan to send troops to Mozambique to help quell an Islamist insurgency that has left almost 3 000 dead, created 800 000 refugees and derailed Total Energies’ huge Mozambique LNG development.
In a communique issued on Wednesday after a meeting in Maputo, the 16-member bloc approved the deployment of troops to the Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique.
The brief statement said the organisation had “approved the mandate for the SADC standby force mission to Mozambique to be deployed in support of Mozambique to combat terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado”.
While no further details were revealed, the decision brings the curtain down on months of debate about the pros and cons of deploying troops in Mozambique, which has been reluctant to accept direct foreign intervention on its soil.
Mozambique president Filipe Nyusi, a former defence minister, vowed Friday to root out Islamic State-linked militants in the north of the country with the help of regional allies that are set to contribute ground forces.
SADC did not say how many troops would be sent or when, but Nyusi, in a speech marking the country’s 46th anniversary of independence from Portugal, said the militants
would be crushed with foreign assistance.
“We will do everything to ensure that the coming times are of despair and agony for the terrorists operating in Mozambique,” he stressed in a televised address. Mozambique’s “brave defence and security forces will intensify their operations to hunt down these criminals, getting the necessary support from SADC and friendly countries, but without compromising our sovereignty as a nation,” he continued.
Analyst Willem Els of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies told AFP “the situation in Mozambique is not only a local situation, it also evolved into a regional dilemma”.
Dino Mahtani of the International Crisis Group recently urged Nyusi to accept “measured” external intervention to avoid a “heavy deployment”.
Portugal and the United States have provided training for Mozambican troops, but this is the first time Nyusi’s government has been open to foreign boots on the ground to fight the jihadists.
Portugal’s foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva on Wednesday said he expected a European Union military training mission for Mozambique to be approved on 12 July.
SADC also urged its members to work with humanitarian agencies to “continue providing support to the population affected by the terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado, including internally displaced persons”.
Close to the construction site of Total Energies’ liquefied natural gas project, the situation in Palma — which was attacked by insurgents on 24 March — is reported to be tense, with fears growing that civilians unable to flee the coastal town and surrounding villages will be at the beck and call of the insurgents.
Conflict observer group Cabo Ligado, which closely monitors unrest in Cabo Delgado province, said on Wednesday: “As the
number of civilians in the Palma area dwindles, those who remain will become more
vulnerable to both state and insurgent coercion.
“Without a concerted evacuation effort, there is a risk that at a certain point those remaining in Quitunda, lower Palma, and Maganja will be compelled to join the insurgency as a survival strategy.”
Cabo Ligado reported how a group of displaced people who arrived in Pemba on 20 June after escaping Palma described a meeting that insurgents held with civilians in lower Palma on 16 June.
At the meeting, the civilians were told
that the insurgents “are more important figures” in their lives than Mozambican president Nyusi because they can “physically reach the civilians at any time”.
Cabo Ligado reported that government troops are looting properties in southern Palma, and cannot effectively protect
– Additional reporting – Upstream, AFP