Botswana exits SAMIM as Rwanda grows troop numbers


The withdrawal of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) contingent to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) last week is the first troop contributing country (TCC) exit ahead of mission closure in July – three years after it deployed in the east African country.

The BDF contingent, according to SAMIM Public information Operations Officer Captain Tshepiso Mantjane, had been operational in Cabo Delgado since October last year and, along with other TCCs was part of offensive operations to neutralise terrorists as well as engage in quick impact projects. These are mission initiatives to better the lives of local residents returning home after being displaced by terrorist actions.

SAMIM Acting Head of Mission Mr J Shikongo Shikongo and SAMIM Force Commander Major General Patrick Dube, according to Mantjane, told a farewell parade on 5 April for the Botswana contingent their “commitment, resilience, and determination” coupled with the overall joint efforts of the mission will have “a positive and lasting impact”.

Other troop contributing countries (TCCs) to the multi-prong mandated SADC mission are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

The SAMIM mandate includes supporting Mozambique to combat terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado by neutralising the terrorist threat and restoring security to create a secure environment. Other mandate points are strengthening and maintaining peace and security, restoring law and order in affected areas of Cabo Delgado and supporting Mozambique, in collaboration with humanitarian agencies, in providing humanitarian relief to Mozambicans affected by terrorist activities, including internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Mozambique Foreign Minister Veronica Macamo has to date been the only person to provide a reason for the SAMIM shutdown. In late March she was reported as saying SAMIM will depart in July due to a lack of funds.

“SAMIM is facing some financial problems. We also have to take care of our own troops and we would have difficulty paying for SAMIM”, she is reported by local media in the Zambian capital Lusaka as saying. “Our countries are not managing to raise the necessary money”.

Macamo was speaking post a meeting between Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and his Zambian counterpart Hakainde Hichilema, current SADC body on Co-operation in Politics, Defence and Security chair.

Macamo told media given its budgetary limitations the Southern African regional bloc opted to prioritise its mission in the DRC (SAMIDRC) ahead of SAMIM.

Rwanda, meanwhile, plans to send more troops to Mozambique. Brigadier General Patrick Karuretwa, head of international cooperation in the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), told journalists in Kigali that additional Rwandan soldiers would help fill the gap left by SAMIM’s departure, News24 reported.

“We shall train Mozambican soldiers to occupy the places where SAMIM used to be stationed. We are also increasing the number of our own forces, and making them more mobile, so that they can cover larger areas,” he said.

The logistics for the new Rwandan contingent will apparently be financed by the European Union. Last week, the European Union said it will disburse roughly 20 million euros to assist the Rwandan mission in Cabo Delgado, under the EU programme for the promotion of world peace

Rwanda some 2 500 troops and police in Mozambique, under a bilateral agreement with Mozambique and outside the SADC arrangement.

Although violence in Cabo Delgado has been declining, there have been recent spikes this year, with attacks in southern Cabo Delgado causing the displacement of thousands of people. Since 2017, conflict has displaced one million people internally and resulted in 5 000 killed.