Zimbabwe will be sending 304 soldiers to Mozambique to help train soldiers to fight Islamist insurgents in the northern Cabo Delgado province.
Zimbabwe’s defence minister Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri on Thursday said, “while other countries have to deploy combat troops, Zimbabwe pledged to assist in the training of Mozambique armed forces to enhance their capability to combat terrorism.”
The troops would be deployed as soon as the necessary documentation (the Status of Forces Agreement) has been signed. Kashiri added that the 304 troops comprise 303 instructors and a Southern African Development Community (SADC) coordination officer.
This will be Zimbabwe’s first major deployment of troops in the region since 1998, when it sent soldiers to the Democratic Republic of Congo in support of the late Laurent Kabila.
Landlocked Zimbabwe is reliant on neighbouring Mozambique’s ports for its imports and exports and has a long history of involvement in Mozambique.
In June, the SADC’s Extraordinary Summit of Heads of States and Government made the decision to deploy elements of the bloc’s Standby Force to Mozambique and the necessary legal documents to proceed with this were signed in mid-July.
Botswana on Monday formally dispatched 300 troops to Mozambique as part of its contribution whilst South Africa has authorised the deployment of up to 1 495 South African National Defence Force members to Mozambique between 15 July and 15 October. Advance elements from South Africa and Botswana arrived in Mozambique early last week.
On Tuesday, Angola announced it had approved a contingent for Mozambique, for three months. The 30-strong contingent will depart on 6 August.
These SADC forces will join 1 000 Rwandan troops currently in Mozambique as part of a bilateral agreement (Rwanda is not an SADC member). Rwandan soldiers are apparently actively combating Al Sunna insurgents and a Rwandan Defence Force spokesperson said that its soldiers had killed 14 insurgents during several operations this week.
According to Portuguese publication Publico, the French government will be paying the Rwandan contingent’s expenses and has offered to finance Zimbabwe’s soldiers. The conflict in Cabo Delgado has displaced 800 000 people, killed 3 000 and brought a natural gas project led by French energy company Total Energies to a grinding halt.