No clear exit for SAMIM in Mozambique

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The SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) has been extended multiple times, and violence continues to affect the northern regions of the country in spite of the presence of thousands of troops, with no clear exit for SAMIM in sight.

These were some of the findings of a recent seminar entitled Examining the Effectiveness of a New Generation of African Peace Operations, hosted by the Security Institute for Governance and Leadership in Africa (SIGLA), the Effectiveness of Peace Operations Network (EPON) and the Training for Peace (TfP) Programme.

Speaking under the Chatham House Rule, a senior academic told attendees that there are not enough security forces to cover all insurgent-affected areas of northern Mozambique, and that there is no clear exit strategy for the troops deployed. This makes it unattractive for countries to send additional troops as they will not know how long their forces will have to be deployed for.

The academic added that another issue is that by taking so long to invite the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to deploy troops, Mozambique has shown a lack of trust and little faith in the mission, and this needs to be addressed.

In spite of the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) troop deployment, year on year attacks have spread, and violence is increasing, possibly being at the highest since 2017. Intelligence sharing and logistics need to improve and troops need to move faster to address the resurgence in violence, the academic noted.

A senior official told the seminar that Mozambique’s armed forces (FADM) need to be capacitated and they need air support to be more effective. He agreed that attacks are continuing, even though the situation has to some extent been stabilised. Some areas have been liberated, materiel assistance can be delivered and government is able to execute some key functions, “but things have not returned to normalcy and ASWJ still have the capacity to strike.”

He said they insurgents have adopted an asymmetric warfare approach, and their leadership is still intact and active. The insurgents have spread out and this shows “how uncertain and precarious the situation is.”

He pointed out that SAMIM is supposed to capacitate the FADM but “it’s a long process” in spite of training and assistance from the international community, including the European Union, Portugal, United States etc.

The official emphasised that the military is only the first line of defence and has to be complemented with many other lines of support in order to quell the insurgency and stop it from recurring. This includes returning dignity to local citizens, building roads and other infrastructure and providing social support to the population as well as restoring law and order.

“We also need to restore public safety and security, we need to engage on social development, be able to build communities and bring them to where they were. Trust has been lost and people have been violated,” he said. “The end state we want is that we should restore state authority accompanied by…good governance.” The insurgency is rooted in demographics, power relations and other dynamics that need to be unpacked before peace and stability can be restored.

SAMIM has shifted its mandate in terms of African Union (AU) procedures from Scenario Six (full enforcement mandate) to Scenario Five, which is a peacekeeping one, but this will not see a reduction in troop numbers. It has also not stopped SAMIM from extending its mission term.

SAMIM was established in mid-2021 with personnel from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to operate in the Cabo Delgado region of northern Mozambique against ASWJ insurgents. South Africa has authorised up to 1 500 troops for deployment, and their term has again been extended until April next year under Operation Vikela.