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Southern African Leaders Promise Action on Mozambique Islamist Insurgency

People wait for friends and relatives as a ship carrying more than 1000 people fleeing an attack claimed by Islamic State-linked insurgents on the town of Palma, docks in Pemba, Mozambique, April 1 2021.

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Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi says member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will respond in a “meaningful manner” to the deadly Islamist insurgency in northern Mozambique. Masisi made the comments Wednesday after meeting with Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa.  

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi told reporters late Wednesday he talked to his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa about the deteriorating situation in northern Mozambique prior to his arrival in Harare.  

At the State House in Harare, Masisi said his talk with Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa was dominated by the situation in Mozambique. 

“I have reported to President Mnangagwa the contents of the discussions with President Ramaphosa, and we have formed views as [a] Troika. One of them will result in taking this further, so that we as SADC respond in a helpful manner to ensure that we assure the integrity and sovereignty of one of our own never to be assaulted by dissidents, rebellious non-state forces that undermine the democratic credentials and peace of the region,” he said.

Since 2017, an Islamist insurgency has raged in Mozambique’s oil-rich Cabo Delgado province.

Calling it “an acute crisis,” UNICEF said this week that approximately 350,000 children have been displaced since the insurgency began. The children’s world body said there is a cholera outbreak underway and COVID-19 is spreading, as well. 

Mozambique’s Humanitarian Crisis in Cabo Delgado Has Displaced 700,000The insurgency, which began nearly four-and-a-half years ago, is escalating rapidly and forcing increasing numbers of people to flee their homes

Adriano Nuvunga is a coordinator of the Mozambique Human Rights Defenders Network.  

Speaking from Maputo via a messaging application, Nuvunga said what is happening in the Cabo Delgado province is “barbaric” and SADC must quickly come in. 

“It’s quite disturbing to see that SADC is silent, it’s doing nothing. Since the [SADC] Troika meeting in Harare last May, when they promised to come forth and support Mozambique, nothing has happened. And Mozambique is resorting to international mercenary companies which are committing all sorts of brutalities, human rights abuses and some war crimes. I think SADC is not doing enough,” he said.

Map of Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula, Mozambique

Tendaiwo Peter Maregere, who is with Coventry University’s Center for Trust, Peace and Social Relations in England, says all SADC leaders must call for another meeting and come up with a more specific program for Mozambique.   

“That program of action must have deliverables and actionable points of what sort of outcomes does SADC require or look up to following the intervention,” he said. “It must also provide regional collaborative intervention strategies with east African communities given that there is a likelihood that the conflict may spill into Tanzania, Malawi and therefore that regional comparative approach must also inform program of action.”     

SADC does not have a standing army, unlike the West Africa bloc ECOWAS. In the past, individual countries have deployed their armies to quell security threats in other member countries.  Zimbabwe sent troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Mozambique in the 1980s and in 1998, respectively, while South Africa deployed to quell post-election violence in Lesotho.  

VOA News

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