Military action alone not enough for peace in Cabo Delgado – top churchman

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Problems in Cabo Delgado will not be overcome by military means alone, a senior Mozambican religious leader told a meeting in Pemba where he stressed the importance of dialogue as “cardinal in resolving the terrorist problem” in Cabo Delgado.

Methodist Bishop Dinis Matsolo, regarded as one of the most prominent religious voices in Mozambique, spoke last week at a Southern African Development Community (SADC) early response mechanism (ERM) meeting in the port city.

He told those present terrorism and violent extremism in Cabo Delgado is not a problem for Mozambique and SADC alone, but one for the entire world.

Matsolo, according to an SADC statement, commended efforts by the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) and the ERM programme, adding it would be a great mistake if people started believing the problem in Cabo Delgado would be solved by the military alone. Religious leaders believe dialogue is cardinal in resolving the terrorist problem and proposed an inter-religions dialogue where leaders of different faiths would meet and show they were together in fighting against terrorism. “This would dispel the notion of the conflict being based on religion”.

He also proposed an inter-community dialogue to address the plight of internally displaced peoples (IDPs) in Cabo Delgado and an inter-generational dialogue to share values with youth to promote social cohesion. Civil/military relations should not be underestimated and downplayed because there is a need for a sound relationship with the wider community acting as local intelligence, he told the meeting.

The ERM “seeks to pacify the security situation in Cabo Delgado” which is currently relatively calm but unpredictable due to the threat posed by terrorist activities, the SADC statement has it.

The SADC peacebuilding support project, part of ERM, provides for humanitarian assistance and multi-dimensional peacekeeping entailing, among others, civilian involvement to undertake confidence building measures and programmes, aimed at addressing mistrust in communities.

The Pemba ERM meeting came a week after a SAMIM downgrade was announced. The downgrade sees the previously full military African Union (AU) Scenario Six replaced by Scenario Five. Soldiers will now work alongside police, corrections officers and civilians in a multi-dimensional mission. The change in mission status comes 14 months after the regional bloc committed forces to Mozambique’s northern province in an effort to quell ASWJ (Al-Sunna Wa-Jama’ah).

The Islamist grouping has been active in Cabo Delgado since 2017 opposed initially only by Mozambique’s armed forces (Forças Armadas de Defesa de Moçambique, better known by the acronym FADM). A SADC force, deployed as SAMIM, has been on the ground for over a year with a thousand-strong contingent of Rwandan military also taking the fight to the insurgents. Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia are SADC countries currently contributing troops and materiel to the regional bloc mission.