SADC decides on another summit as it holds off on military response to Mozambique


What was billed as an “extraordinary double troika summit” of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to explore ways and means of ending instability and violence in northern Mozambique will, a communique issued by the regional bloc, see an “extraordinary summit” to discuss the same issue held by the 20th of next month (June).

Thursday’s top-level gathering of two SADC troikas – one representing the regional bloc itself and the other its politics, defence and security co-operation top trio – followed postponement of a previous summit, also set for the Mozambican capital Maputo late in April.

The post-summit communique is in point form giving “information” on the whats, wheres, hows and whys of Thursday’s “extraordinary” meeting. These include who was present, complete with honorifics; thanking leaders, including Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi for co-ordinating “the regional interaction agenda”; commendation for an initiative to stage a business forum on the margins of the June summit as well as what came under discussion regarding the situation in Cabo Delgado.

This was expressed as re-affirming “solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique and its continued efforts in addressing terrorism and ensuring lasting peace and security”; noting “progress in finding a lasting solution to terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado Province and considered the proposed regional response in support of Mozambique”.

No mention is made of discussion – if any – on setting up of a SADC regional military force for deployment to the troubled areas of South Africa’s eastern neighbour.

The force, according to reports but not confirmed by the regional bloc, will be headed by three light infantry battalions, each 620 strong, as well as a pair of Special Forces squadrons, each numbering 70 operators. In its ranks will also be attack and other helicopters (numbers not specified) as well as maritime patrol vessels, a submarine and maritime patrol aircraft. Possible contributing countries, in terms of personnel and equipment, are not known at present.

SADC members, including South Africa, reportedly favourregional military action as violence in Mozambique worsens and the threat to regional stability increases.

Nyusi said previously Mozambique should handle aspects of the response alone for reasons of sovereignty and resisted suggestions of foreign boots on the ground.

In remarks following the SADC deliberations in Maputo, Nyusi said leaders concluded the summit with a clearer sense of “concrete steps” to be taken to quell violence.

“We adopted measures aiming to eliminate  terrorist actions by the roots through reinforcing the operational capacity of (Mozambique’s) defence and security forces,” he said, pointing to plans to enhance border security and target the militants’ funding sources.

The summit followed the capture of the key northern town of Palma in March, which killed dozens, displaced over 50 000 people and brought a $20 billion gas project by oil major Total to a grinding halt.

The assault exacerbated growing concern among regional neighbours about the insurgent group, which pledges allegiance to Islamic State.

Subsequently, South Africa said it would press for urgent military intervention in the conflict, while a leaked – not veritifed – SADC document proposed sending a force of 3 000 soldiers to the country.

SADC’s communique issued following Thursday’s summit made no clear mention of military intervention.