ISS analysis supports SADC deployment in Mozambique


The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) has been on the ground in the troubled east African country for over a year with ongoing skirmishing while attempts to return some semblance of peace continue.

An indication of the loss of life and displacement of people as a result of ASWJ (Al-Sunna Wa-Jama’ah) action in particularly Cabo Delgado comes from the Pretoria headquartered Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

It indicates, in a piece not attributed to any of its resident staff, the crisis in northern Mozambique “incubated” from 2017 with a “dramatic escalation” in March 2021 when extremists rampaged through the port town Mocímboa da Praia, a logistics base for multinationals. The attack put some of Africa’s biggest foreign investments at risk.

“More than 3 000 people died and the conflict displaced over 800 000. It alerted regional leaders to the threat of violent extremism, the need for development of remote regions and the importance of better governance to ensure resources become an opportunity not a curse,” the ISS said.

A team of ISS analysts and experts in maritime security, organised crime, violent extremism and governance was convened and provided early warnings, before conflict flared. The warnings gave weight to the ISS assertion that military response must be supported by socio-economic development and humanitarian assistance.

“The ISS brought human security expertise to a challenging situation and was able to make practical recommendations based on experience dealing with terrorism in the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin, Horn of Africa and Nigeria,” ISS consultant Borges Nhamirre said in Maputo. “We understand how conflicts evolve and what responses are most likely to succeed so could show why security action must be accompanied by a long term development approach.”

“ISS analysts understand the dynamics in Mozambique’s ruling party and SADC foreign policy debates. The diversity of ISS expertise combines with its reputation for independence, relationships giving it credibility in the corridors of power and access to decision makers.”

The ISS argued for both military and non-military action and recognition that the insurgency was driven by legitimate local grievances. It was one of the first organisations to call for SADC involvement and encouraged dialogue and job creation for marginalised youth as an alternative to recruitment by extremists.

“The ISS helped Denmark to understand the social and economic dynamics of the Cabo Delgado conflict and approach it in a holistic way,” said Jacob Stensdal, Deputy Head of Mission at the Danish Embassy in Pretoria. “Without the ISS, our analysis might have been more one dimensional and the full picture is important for informing Denmark’s response to the conflict.”

Mozambique’s new strategy for resilience and development in the country’s north recognises socio-economic inequalities and political and economic exclusion. Maputo is mobilising $764 million from multilateral partners to finance the Integrated Northern Development Agency (INDA) focused on humanitarian assistance, economic development, community resilience and communication.

Additionally the ISS called for land, sea and air surveillance to inform military and police operations, with intelligence sharing among SADC members. It suggested foreign troops be replaced over time by trained and accountable Mozambican police and soldiers.

About 1 000 SAMIM troops from four SADC countries were deployed in mid-2021. Together with the Mozambican military, they drove terror groups from their bases, reopened key roads and protected villages. Another 2 000 Rwandan troops and police secure areas close to gas projects.

The Rwandan Ministry of Defence reports since April its security force deployment in Mozambique, along with SADC and Mozambican forces, rescued over 600 hostages during offensives against terrorist bases in Catupia forest, north-eastern Macomia.

The South African military deployment to SAMIM – Operation Vikela – was recently visited by Brigadier General Lester Gardiner, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Headquarters Chief of Staff. He was on hand to, as reported by Captain Anelisiwe Tamela, “address Operation Vikela support and sustainment matters”.

Tamela also reports prime mission equipment for the South African contingent of SAMIM was moved to Mozambique by sea and air to Pemba.