Two more troop contributing countries exit Mozambique

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Angola and Namibia are the latest troop contributing countries (TCCs) to exit the South African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) as the mission’s July closure looms ever larger.

A farewell ceremony for the Angolan and Namibian contingents at Pemba airport saw soldiers honoured with mission service medals as well as applause and thanks for what they did in the east African country.

Bidding soldiers from the two SADC countries farewell, SAMIM Force Commander, South African Major General Patrick Dube, said the work they did “will always remain in the hearts and minds of Mozambicans”.

SAMIM thanked them for commitment, dedication, courage and skills during the deployment in support of Mozambique security forces with the two-star noting their proud contribution to regional peace and security.

Botswana was the first to exit SAMIM, followed by Lesotho and South Africa, with President Cyril Ramaphosa, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief extending the deployment the day it finished on 15 April. That leaves, as far as can be ascertained, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia with troops on the ground in Cabo Delgado. The presence of Namibian soldiers and equipment was not previously mentioned in SADC statements or SAMIM social media postings.

SAMIM operations to curb ASWJ (Al Sunnah wa Jama’a) started in August 2021 in the Macomia, Muidumbe and Nangade districts of Cabo Delgado.

Rwanda has pledged to send more troops to Cabo Delgado where terrorists have unleashed a fresh wave of attacks in recent months after suffering military losses to international forces.

The Rwandan troops will arrive to help avoid a security gap as SAMIM leaves the province.

In March, 300 rebel fighters reportedly seized and occupied the coastal town of Quissanga, a district capital. Insurgents beheaded three members of the security forces on nearby Quirimba Island the following day.

The new attacks have hit areas that were relatively untouched since the start of the insurgency, including a sustained push into the Chiúre district near Cabo Delgado’s southern border. These attacks are “notable for their relative intensity and the absence of an effective response from state forces,” Cabo Ligado, a website that monitors the insurgency, reported in March.

Brigadier General Patrick Karuretwa, who leads the Rwandan Defensc Force’s international military cooperation, said the country already has about 2 500 soldiers and police personnel in Cabo Delgado’s Ancuabe, Mocimboa da Praia and Palma districts.

The SAMIM withdrawal “obliges us to take certain measures,” Karuretwa said in a report by the Mozambique Information Agency. “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.”

Rwandan forces in 2021 recaptured the northern port of Mocimboa da Praia from insurgents who controlled the city for about a year, disrupting a major natural gas project.

About 300 troops from Tanzania are expected to remain in Cabo Delgado under a separate bilateral security agreement, according to Zitamar News. Tanzanian forces are based in the Nangade district in northern Cabo Delgado.

The final SAMIM forces are expected to leave in July. Mozambique Foreign Minister Veronica Macamo has said SAMIM is departing due to “financial problems.”

“We also have to take care of our own troops and we would have difficulty paying for SAMIM,” Macamo said recently. “Our countries are not managing to raise the necessary money.”

The European Union has pledged $21.3 million to fund the next Rwandan deployment.

After meeting with Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi in March, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune also pledged to send basic personal equipment for members of Cabo Delgado’s local militias who fight alongside security forces.

SAMIM has helped make significant counterterrorism gains since its deployment and more than 600 000 people who fled violence in Cabo Delgado had returned to their homes as of December 2023, Relief Web reported.

Thomas Mandrup, associate professor at Stellenbosch University’s Security Institute for Governance and Leadership in Africa, said he believes the mission achieved its objective of reducing the insurgents’ capacity.

However, “SAMIM has found it difficult to fulfil its mandate of training the Mozambican force because they couldn’t identify their training needs,” Mandrup said in an interview with The Conversation. He added that the mission’s development and humanitarian efforts “have been limited at best.”

Written by defenceWeb and Africa Defense Forum.