SADC troops in Mozambique are bubbling with confidence as they make more advances into conflict torn Cabo Delgado with military authorities eager to make the most of the three-month extension of deployment granted by regional leaders recently.
However, reports from the troubled province in that country indicate that as they are squeezed out of areas they used to control, the rebels are committing more atrocities against civilians as well mounting bold, sporadic attacks.
Earlier this week, Mozambican and South African media reported that seven people had been found decapitated in Mucojo, a town in the coastal district of the Cabo Delgado province. One of the victims was reportedly a three-year old child. Aid agencies and media also reported that the terrorists have set up makeshift roadblocks using tree trunks on key routes in the area and have even launched attacks for food, while killing residents.
Justice, Defence and Security minister, Kagiso Mmusi said the 1,000 SADC troops in Cabo Delgado continues to push harder against the insurgents, clearing them from areas they previously held.
“The work is ongoing and already, people are starting to go back to their homes because the terrorists are running away,” he told a televised briefing recently. “Some terrorists are being caught and others have been killed. “Peace is returning,” said the Minister.
Mmusi added: “People who had fled are now going back home.”
President Mokgweetsi Masisi, together with Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa), Hage Geingob (Namibia) and Filipe Nyusi (Mozambique) agreed earlier this month to extend the SADC troops’ three-month deployment in Cabo Delgado by another three months. The deployment will now end in mid-January, but officials have hinted that further extensions could be made should the situation require them.
“We are working on bringing peace to that area and I ask that Batswana continues praying for our children who are there,” Mmusi said. “It’s not an easy job but they are doing it with honor,” he further said.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian picture of Cabo Delgado’s conflict is becoming clearer, with a multi-sectoral report released yesterday indicating that since attacks began in on 5 October 2017, about 2,800 people have died and almost 800 000 have been displaced.
The SADC troops military actions are therefore paving way for humanitarian assistance to arrive in war-ravaged areas, where some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been living in forests with little shelter and nutrition due to attacks by the rebels.
“Entire villages have become ghost towns,” the report by the civic society groups indicates. “IDPs continue to face hardship and marginalization even after they have fled conflict. “For example, IDPs resettled in Montepuez sleep under the stars because the locals, who apparently hold title deeds to the land, will not allow them to build any type of housing, regardless of how flimsy it is. “The locals charge a one-time “tax” to occupy the land, which varies from 500 to 1500 meticais (P89). This is creating tension in the region, which might end up in further violence,” said the report.
The civic society groups also report that insurgents continue to abduct women and girls, while the Mozambican forces yet to come up with a strategy to free the women who are being abused.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, they’re killing and taking our daughters to their bases to make them their wives,” a female informant is quoted as saying in the report. Furthermore, these abducted women and girls are forced into spying and recruiting for the insurgent,.” said reports.
The civic society groups also report confusion in Cabo Delgado caused by the presence of mercenaries and Mozambican government forces who are reportedly rounding up and assaulting villagers whom they suspect of being insurgents.
Analysts in Mozambique have called on Nyusi’s government to open dialogue with the rebels in order to find a more sustainable solution to the conflict. Previously, the Mozambican government said it could not start dialogue as it did not know the identify of the rebels’ leaders.
However, the United States, in an August report, identified the main actors in the conflict. The civic society group’s report released on Thursday builds on this and identifies eight main leaders of the Islamist insurgents.
Professor Adriano Nuvunga, executive director of the Centre for Democracy and Development in Maputo, previously told Mmegi that the state of the conflict was such that efforts towards long-lasting dialogue could begin.
“This is where we think it would be the right time to engage in robust resolution dialogue because if you learn from what happened in Afghanistan and other parts of the world, there is no military solution for this kind of military crisis,” Nuvunga said. “It needs a comprehensive strategy which includes resolution dialogue and other components, in addressing the root causes through inclusive governance.”