Regional Threat

Leaders ‘commit’ SADC to helping Mozambique fight jihadist insurgency

By Peter Fabricius 20 May 2020

A large group of insurgents — presumed to be from the Isis-affiliated Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASWJ) group, attacked the town of Mocimboa da Praia in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado at about 4am on Saturday, security sources said. (Photo: supplied)

Details of the support are now being discussed, a SADC official says. International gas companies are on edge as some attacks happened close to installations they are constructing.

The security body of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has “committed” the regional organisation to help Mozambique fight the jihadist insurgency which is gaining momentum in its northernmost province of Cabo Delgado.

SADC officials told Daily Maverick that the details of the assistance were now being discussed. 

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi pleaded for help at a summit in Harare on Tuesday of the troika of SADC’s organ on politics, defence and security. This is the body tasked with maintaining peace and security in the SADC region which comprises 15 states, including South Africa.

The troika summit “committed and urged” all SADC member states to support Mozambique. 

The summit was chaired by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, current chairperson of the organ and was also attended by the two other members of the troika: Zambian President Edgar Lungu, the outgoing chairperson; and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, the incoming chairperson.

Nyusi attended as the main item on the agenda was the insurgency which erupted in the far north of Mozambique in October 2017 and has now killed close to 1,000 people. The attacks by Islamist insurgents affiliated to the Islamic State have intensified during the past few months, and they have captured important towns.

Their attacks have alarmed international gas companies as they have taken place close to the installations they are constructing to extract the enormous natural gas reserves of the Rovuma basin offshore of Cabo Delgado. At least one company is reported to have frozen its activities, pending termination of the insurgency. 

The communique from the troika summit in Harare noted that Nyusi had briefed the three other leaders about the security situation in Mozambique. The leaders “condemned all acts of terrorism and armed attacks wherever they occur…

“The Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit plus Mozambique committed and urged SADC member states to support the Government of Mozambique in fighting against the terrorists and armed groups in some districts of Cabo Delgado.”

It is not yet clear what sort of assistance Nyusi asked for or what other SADC member states would be prepared to commit to. There was no indication from Tuesday’s summit if the security organ troika members had canvassed other SADC member states to establish their views or commitments.

Over the past two months, a South Africa-based private military company Dyck Advisory Group run by the former Zimbabwean military officer Lionel Dyck has been helping Mozambican security forces fight the insurgents, mainly by attacking them with helicopter gunships.

For over two years Nyusi’s government has been denying the nature of the insurgency in Cabo Delgado, dismissing it as mere criminality. But the recent surge in attacks appears to have forced it to acknowledge the reality of the threat. 

As a result of this denialism, SADC had not officially put the insurgency on its agenda of regional security threats until Tuesday’s summit. 

South African officials told Daily Maverick that Mozambique’s immediate neighbours, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania in particular, had all been urging Mozambique for many months to admit to the scale of the problem and to agree to SADC addressing it. The neighbouring countries fear that the insurgency could spill over Mozambique’s borders and affect them too.

Over the past two months, a South Africa-based private military company Dyck Advisory Group run by the former Zimbabwean military officer Lionel Dyck has been helping Mozambican security forces fight the insurgents, mainly by attacking them with helicopter gunships.

Some security analysts believe that Zimbabwe special forces have already joined combat in Cabo Delgado. This had suggested that the point of Tuesday’s summit might have been for SADC to retrospectively authorise the Zimbabwean military intervention if there has been one. DM

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