The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has a responsibility to help a member state “whose sovereignty and territorial integrity is under serious threat” according to an extraordinary meeting of ministers in the regional bloc’s politics, defence and security body.
A statement posted on the SADC website yesterday (Thursday, 29 April) attributes this comment to Botswana Minister of International Affairs and Co-operation Dr Lemogang Kwape. He is quoted as chair of SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, referred to as the Ministerial Committee Organ (MCO).
The statement elaborates on the meeting “called to consider the report of the technical assessment team deployed to Mozambique following a decision by the Extraordinary SADC Double Troika Summit in Maputo on 8 April”. A day previously another SADC statement had it an extraordinary summit of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security was postponed due to unavailability of the presidents of Botswana and South Africa. No new date was given for the extraordinary summit, called primarily to seek solutions to Islamic insurgency in northern Mozambique. It appears the delay in the extraordinary summit did not affect the “extraordinary ministerial committee meeting” of SADC’s politics, defence and security body.
The statement gives no detail of any possible SADC military commitment to Mozambique, again only quoting Kwape as saying “as we deliberate on the report and course of action, we should take into consideration the way forward, as the region, should be guided by the SADC Mutual Defence Pact. The pact provides for collective self-defence and collective action. In particular, Article 6 states ‘an armed attack against a state party shall be considered a threat to regional peace and security and such an attack shall be met with immediate action’”.
He added SADC cannot afford “continued heinous atrocities characterised by horrific killing of innocent civilians, beheadings and maiming of women and children, including gender-based violence”.
“The rise in these dreadful attacks raises concerns they are likely to spread to other provinces in Mozambique and the entire region. The sooner we respond collectively, the less likely these barbaric acts of terrorism will continue to destabilise the region.”
The statement ends with a vote of thanks to Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi and notes the MCO meeting was “a culmination of efforts to secure the region by urgently addressing the security situation in Cabo Delgado province”.
Earlier this week reports indicated three light infantry battalions of 620 soldiers each and two 70-strong Special Forces squadrons would be the vanguard of a SADC force to “combat and neutralise” insurgents in northern Mozambique. An unnamed number of attack and other helicopters as well as patrol ships, a submarine and a maritime aircraft to patrol the Cabo Delgado coast will also be part of the force. The maritime component of the deployment is reportedly to intercept supplies for the insurgents and combat criminal trafficking, believed to be a source of financing for the insurgency.