Top analyst expresses doubts about competency of SADC Mozambique force


The Southern African Development Community (SADC) military response to Mozambique’s Islamist insurrection is coming together even as the regional bloc remains mum on details including numbers and equipment.

To date, SADC members Angola, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe have committed resources of varying numbers to the as yet, officially unnamed force, dubbed SAMIM (SADC Mission in Mozambique). The sole official indication from SADC’s Botswana headquarters that a regional bloc force will be in Mozambique came on 17 July. A statement then had it instruments of authority for deployment of an SADC standby force were presented to an unnamed force commander. He was subsequently identified as South African Major General Xolani Mankayi, a former commander of the SA Army’s 43 SA Brigade.

Top South African defence analyst Helmoed Heitman told defenceWeb the “sluggish response” by both the regional bloc and South Africa was “embarrassing, even allowing for the delay caused by Mozambique not timeously signing the Status of Forces agreement”.

By comparison, the Rwandan response was decisive, with reports from the east African country having it combined Mozambican/Rwandan forces retook villages and other positions in Cabo Delgado from Ansar al-Sunna soon after arriving in the east African country. Earlier this week, Rwandan soldiers apparently killed around 70 insurgents during clashes around Palma ahead of efforts to retake Mocimboa da Praia.

Heitman is not surprised by the actions of Rwandans in Mozambique.

“They are impressive, the Prussians of modern Africa. Their swift response is not surprising, nor that they immediately went into action. I however would not want anyone to think they can solve the problem in short order. The situation is too complex for any quick fix; it will take years of ensuring security, one hopes increasingly by local forces, before a normal situation can be achieved.”

As a more than interested observer he notes, “co-ordination is going to be interesting with SADC components, Rwandans, local forces, an EU training mission et al”. There is provision for a co-ordination centre but “it will have to be properly managed”.

While it’s early days, Heitman maintains the SADC force will not be strong enough – even with the Rwandans –to achieve much if the original force design is maintained. “It will worsen if it turns out to be smaller and less cohesive as seems likely,” he notes.

Shortcomings in reconnaissance capability (a pair of hand-launched UAVs), air mobility (two utility helicopters and zero relevance for transport aircraft) and air support (two attack and two armed rotorcraft) add up to a too small, too lightly armed force with inadequate reconnaissance, mobility and air support, he warns.

The maritime component of the SADC force was “better specced” with the rider it will be dependent on the SA Navy’s ability to deploy and sustain platforms. So far, a South African Navy offshore patrol vessel has been observed in Mozambique.