The Head of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), Professor Mpho Molomo, has expressed confidence that foreign intervention will save Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique from terrorist insurgency which had affected the Region over the past few years.
Speaking at a webinar hosted by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) entitled “Will foreign intervention end terrorism in Mozambique”, Prof Molomo said the joint intervention by SAMIM and the Rwandan and Mozambican defence forces had been able to dislodge insurgents from their bases.
SAMIM derives its mandate from the decision of the SADC Summit which, at its meeting in the Republic of Mozambique on 23rd June 2021, approved the deployment of SADC Standby Force Rapid Deployment Capability for an initial period of three months. The initial period is subject to extension for a further period depending on the evolution of the operational situation on the ground.
SAMIM forces were launched by SADC and the host nation on 9th August 2021 and have now achieved full operational capability as well as gaining some success. Rwandan troops were deployed to Mozambique a month earlier, following a bilateral agreement between the two countries to assist Maputo fight terrorism.
The intervention by foreign forces has been instrumental in stabilising the situation and assisting the Mozambique Defence Forces to hold ground in areas which have been liberated to facilitate a roll out of other forms of assistance.
This has resulted in the neutralising of many terrorists, seizure of their equipment and materials, including their strategic plans, enabling the Government of Mozambique and its allied forces to appreciate the problem of Cabo Delgado and giving them an opportunity to ascertain the terrorists’ identity and methods of operations.
Prof Molomo said while military intervention was instrumental in pacifying the region, enabling the Government of Mozambique to put in place instruments to pacify the situation, military intervention is only one aspect of the situation. There was now a need to secure Cabo Delgado to ensure law and order, rule of law, restoration of services such as electricity, water, re-opening of schools, and a return to normalcy.
“SAMIM and the Rwandan and Mozambican defence forces are ensuring that there is a measure of stability and this has allowed the Mozambican Government, together with International Cooperating Partners, and multilateral agencies of the United Nations to roll out the much-needed services as well as humanitarian assistance” Prof Molomo added.
The humanitarian problem in Cabo Delgado has had a debilitating effect on the people and rapid deployment of SAMIM and other forces has given humanitarian aid agencies the chance to plough back and the Government of Mozambique to build back and roll out infrastructure and financial assistance packages, particularly to the youth to establish themselves.
Prof. Molomo, however, said what will ultimately curb the insurgency in northern Mozambique is a political roadmap that the Government has put in place, which requires up to US$300 million for reconstruction and other international partners to back this process. He said it was essential for SADC to come on board and assist Mozambique through SAMIM because the regional bloc realised that if allowed to fester, terrorism can spread into the entire SADC Region.
SAMIM was deployed in terms of the SADC Mutual Defence Pact and at the invitation of the Government of Mozambique, and the Mission was in the country to help it uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Prof. Molomo said the problem in Cabo Delgado is multifaceted and needs many approaches as it manifests by the intention to establish a caliphate which would spread across the SADC Region.
Responding to questions from webinar participants, Prof Molomo said SAMIM was deployed in Mozambique a bit late because it is a multinational force and therefore it took time to plan and harmonise the logistics. He said he was happy that a joint coordinating liaison committee comprising generals from the Mozambique and Rwandan defence forces and SAMIM had been established and cooperation between all the parties is very smooth.
There are other actors at bilateral and multilateral levels which were also assisting, Prof Molomo said, adding that Mozambique had done a splendid job in coordinating the multilateral operations and this has facilitated the rolling out of humanitarian assistance by UN agencies and other multilateral organisations.
As a result of the joint operations, more than 150 people have been rescued, a sizeable number of equipment has been captured, and items such as vehicles, foodstuffs medicine, computers as well as some documents had been seized from the terrorists and were now being processed and analysed. The operation has resulted in the return and settlement of about 15 000 internally displaced persons.
The joint operations have also successfully enabled the opening of major supply routes in Cabo Delgado and that public utilities such as electricity and water have been restored by the Government of Mozambique. Beyond the military intervention, there will be a need for support to Mozambique in the continued settlement of internally displaced persons, provision of basic needs, socio-economic development, construction of houses, public infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and airports.
The spokesperson of the Mozambique Defence Force, Colonel Omar Saranga, said the terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado have undermined the rights of citizens, negatively impacting the fulfilling of those rights. The attacks included assassinations, kidnappings, destruction of infrastructure, and attacks on the armed forces, posing a menace to the country’s security.
Col Saranga said the international community has shown solidarity with the people of Mozambique by providing humanitarian assistance. SADC had provided operational and military assistance under the Mutual Defence Pact, while Rwanda had assisted with operational and military assistance. The country has also benefited from technical assistance in training its troops and provision of non-military assistance. The assistance provided under this framework, Col Saranga said, has been contributing to the improvement of the situation in the country.
He said combined operations by SAMIM and the Rwandan contingent has allowed the improvement of capacity of the Mozambican Defence Forces, resulting in the deactivation of terrorists’ bases. The positive results on the ground, Col Saranga added, are due to the excellent collaboration under the assistance coordinated by the Mozambican Defence Forces.
Col Saranga thanked SADC and Rwanda, as well as the European Union, the United States of America and the international community for showing commitment in order for Mozambique to achieve the strategic objective in combating terrorism, taking into account the complexity of this subject. He said security is an important aspect for peace and development and that the Ministry of Defence believes that all forces are doing their best in order to contribute to peace in the country.
Responding to questions from webinar participants, Col. Saranga said it is too early to draw lessons from the situation in Cabo Delgado and to talk about challenges. He said terrorism is not a phenomenon that can be defeated in a very short period of time. He also said it is too early to talk about the withdrawal of foreign forces as these were in the country to provide support in fighting the insurgency.
Prof. Molomo concluded by saying that SAMIM intervention in Mozambique was a show of solidarity and regional support to Mozambique. He added that an unstable Mozambique will result in an unstable region and the intervention is a step to secure the region and in pursuit of regional integration.