Can SADC Come To Mozambique’s Rescue As Islamist Militants Gain Ground?
16 August 2020
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Paul Nyathi 

Outgoing members of the SADC troika on defence and security.

Mozambique cannot deal with its terrorism problem alone, and urgently needs help from its Southern African neighbours.

Mozambique is under attack from violent extremists, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) doesn’t seem to have a clear plan on how to protect the country’s residents. It needs to act fast to avoid further instability in the region.

SADC’s intervention is urgently needed as Mozambique’s overstretched security forces battle attacks on all fronts. Apart from the new insurgency, the age-old military confrontation with RENAMO has reignited.

From a regional perspective, the Southern African bloc should have stopped the violent extremists in their tracks years ago, before they gained a foothold in the region.

In its defence, for SADC to intervene, Mozambique needed to formally ask for help. It took the government two and a half years to make such a representation to the bloc.

This is telling in what it reveals about Southern African states’ confidence in their neighbours and SADC. The Mozambican government sought the services of private security companies – first from Russia and then from Zimbabwe and South Africa – to contain the insurgency. The government has reached out to other member states in their individual capacities rather than the collective.

But what are the specific steps that SADC could take:

  • Develop a comprehensive operational strategy that allows for a range of military, economic, political and humanitarian measures.
  • Send a fact-finding mission to Cabo Delgado to determine the extent of the crisis and the humanitarian needs of the population.
  • Consider appointing a special envoy to coordinate efforts to assist Mozambique.
  • Engage with Mozambique’s development partners, international institutions and private companies active in the country to draw up a relief plan for victims and mobilise resources to help end the insurgency.
  • Outline measures for the effective coordination of security, surveillance and control of borders by neighbouring countries.
  • Communicate on the matter effectively and publicly when appropriate, to reassure citizens of SADC’s commitment.
  • Assist Mozambique to develop a long-term strategy to address the root causes of the violence, including the confiscation of land for mining, unemployment, high illiteracy, underdevelopment and a lack of basic services.

The AU should:

  • Engage with SADC to strengthen its efforts in Mozambique.
  • Table the crisis on the monthly agenda of the Peace and Security Council.
  • Use its convening power to mobilise international support from Mozambique’s development partners and international institutions.
  • Facilitate a process of sharing lessons from similar crises in the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin and Somalia.
  • As chair of the AU for 2020 and a SADC member state, the South African government is well placed to spearhead these efforts. This will be in line with the AU’s theme for 2020 – ‘Silencing the Guns: creating conditions for Africa’s development’.