A SADC technical team, led by Botswana and her senior military officials, has recommended the deployment of a 3,000 strong regional force to fight the terrorist insurgency in northern Mozambique, where nearly 800 civilians have been butchered since 2017.
The team, led by senior Botswana Defence Force (BDF) officers, was in Mozambique earlier this month and its recommendations were presented to the SADC ministers’ committee chaired by International Affairs and Cooperation minister, Dr Lemogang Kwape on Wednesday.
The ministers were due to present their recommendations to the SADC defence, politics and security troika, chaired by President Mokgweetsi Masisi yesterday, but the Heads of State meeting has since been postponed.
The meeting was postponed as Masisi is in quarantine due to a possible COVID-19 contact, while President Cyril Ramaphosa was engaged in his country’s State Capture Commission.
The other member of the troika is Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe.
According to a draft of the recommendations seen by Mmegi this week, the technical team is urging Heads of State to immediately deploy intelligence assets as well as rapidly send in special forces to conduct land, air and sea operations in Mozambique’s troubled province of Cabo Delgado.
Funding for the deployment is proposed to come from the SADC Contingency Fund, member states and also through the mobilisation of “continental and international partners and stakeholders”.
“SADC should provide humanitarian relief to the population affected by the terrorist activities including the internally displaced persons,” reads the report.
The planned deployment recommended by the BDF and its regional allies, includes the mobilisation of a variety of high-tech military air, sea and land assets to neutralise the terrorism threat and restore law and order in Cabo Delgado as well as support the Mozambican army.
SADC’s urgency to tackle the crisis in Mozambique was spurred recently after a March 24 assault by terrorists on the town of Palma in Cabo Delgado. Scores of people were killed, including citizens from South Africa, Britain and Zimbabwe.
President Masisi returned from an emergency meeting of the defence Troika recently, pledging to leave no stone unturned in squashing the insurgency.
“When you live in a community of states and you have fought for the liberation of the region, and you have watched this insurgency since 2017, can you stand by and watch again a faceless, stateless
“It would be reprehensible not to respond when you have what it takes to respond, the resources to respond.
“If we don’t, looking at the direction in Mozambique, this time next year it’s right on our shores,” he said then.
The BDF-led technical team found that the insurgents in Cabo Delgado have significant intelligence, local knowledge of terrain, culture, traditions, beliefs, religion and sympathy from the local population. They also have the ability to intercept friendly forces (radio and GSM) communication and make use of satellite phones. The terrorists include local civilians and appear to be funded by regional sources.
The BDF previously told Mmegi that the decision to deploy to Mozambique was still at a political stage and had not become a matter for military consideration.
“When a decision is made, you and other media will be informed,” the army said in a brief statement.
When contacted for comment on the report, SADC distanced itself from the recommendations saying the document in circulation and said to be from the technical team was an “unauthorised, leaked and unofficial” document.
“It appears to have been pieced together from sources we do not know. It’s not our report and we are investigating how it has come to be. We are aware that such a document is circulating,” SADC spokesperson, Barbara Lopi told Mmegi.
Meanwhile, International Affairs minister, Kwape, told his fellow ministers on Wednesday that the region had a responsibility to help a fellow member state.
“We cannot afford to have, under our watch, continued heinous atrocities, which are characterised by horrific killing of innocent civilians, beheadings and maiming of women and children, including gender-based violence,” he said.
The technical team says while the security situation in Cabo Delgado was currently relatively calm, it was also unpredictable due to the threat posed by terrorist activities. The lull in violence is believed to be linked to the Ramadan holy period and analysts expect a flare up in violent activities soon.