SADC leaders are meeting today in Maputo for a hastily organised summit to find a sustainable solution to the Jihadist insurgency in northern Mozambique that has stunned the region.
The extraordinary double Troika Summit will be preceded by the extraordinary organ troika summit and the supporting technical meetings held yesterday.
Sadc double troika comprises of troika member states -Mozanbique, Malawi,Tanzania,Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.
The regional leaders are meeting as the situation in northern Mozambique continues to deteriorate with thousands having already been killed, while the number of internally displaced people has skyrocketed from 70 000 to 700 000.
The leaders are gathered in Maputo amid reports that children as young as 11 have been beheaded in Mozambique by the militants who also overran the coastal town of Palma and occupied it for some days after defeating the Mozambican military. However, Mozambique says it has now regained “full” control of the strategic town.
The troika meeting also coincides with the expiry of the contract of the former Zimbabwe army commander, retired Colonel Lionel Dyck, who is the director of the Dyck Advisory Group, a private military company contracted by Mozambique to shore up its security forces in the face of the onslaught.
Announcements by the chairperson of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi, are a clear sign that the bloc will urgently mobilise and deploy an intervention force to neutralise the militants.
“I have reported to President Mnangagwa the contents of the discussions with [South Africa’s] President Cyril Ramaphosa, and we have formed views as [a] Troika,” said President Masisi after meeting President Mnangagwa in Harare.
“One of them [Ramaphosa and Mnangagwa] will take this further, so that we as SADC respond in a helpful manner to ensure that we assure the integrity and sovereignty of one of our own never to be assaulted by dissidents, or rebellious non-state forces that undermine the democratic credentials and peace of the region,” Masisi added.
A military victory against the insurgency can be achieved but it will not be a stroll in the park if events of the past weeks are anything to go by.
The crisis in Mozambique has provided Sadc leaders with hard lessons which the Maputo meeting must take note of, if they hope for a rapid conquest of the Jihadist militants.
Firstly, it is essential to note that the militants attracted sympathy among many Muslim youths who feel neglected and they do not see their communities benefitting from the vast wealth and investment in
their Cabo Delgado region.
The region appears forgotten as it lacks decent infrastructure despite having one of the largest and richest Liquid Natural Gas projects in the world. International oil companies are embarking on massive
investments worth a whopping US$60bn.
Yet the youths in the region see much of the benefits heading to Maputo, 1 600 kilometres away from Cabo Delgado. Employment opportunities have also been snapped up by people coming from Maputo leaving the youths in the Cabo Delgado region with nothing or at best menial assignments.
Observers say the government of Mozambique should work on improving the quality of life in northern Mozambique as this will help in countering the narrative about corrupt elites in far-flung Maputo neglecting poor Muslims in Cabo Delgado.
To compound the situation, most of the soldiers deployed to fight the militants are not from Cabo Delgado.
They come from southern provinces and do not speak the local language, making it more difficult for them to connect with the civilian population in the northern provinces. As a result, the government soldiers are seen as “foreigners” by the very communities that should be collaborating with
them in fighting the insurgency.
The soldiers have also been accused of human rights abuses with complete impunity.
There have been reports, on various instances, of abuses against the civilian population in Cabo Delgado, including extrajudicial killings.
This has undermined trust between the population and the Mozambican military.
The execution of a defenceless naked woman in Mocímboa da Praia last September attracted wide spread condemnation after the video footage of the attack was shared on social media.
According to human rights campaigners, the woman was attempting to flee north along the road when she was approached by men who appeared to be members of the Mozambique Armed Defense Forces, who were following her..
Amnesty International said after beating her with a wooden stick, she was shot dead and her naked body was left on the highway.
Four different gunmen shot her a total of 36 times with a variety of Kalashnikov rifles and a PKM-style machine gun.
“This horrendous video is yet another gruesome example of the gross human rights violations and merciless killings taking place in Cabo Delgado by the Mozambican security forces,” Amnesty International said.
“The incident is consistent with our recent findings of appalling human rights violations and crimes under international law happening in the area,” Amnesty continued.
“It demonstrates a repeated and unrelenting pattern of crimes being committed by the Mozambican armed forces.”
There are reports suggesting that Mozambique’s well-trained and disciplined soldiers are only protecting oil and gas facilities, leaving the undertrained, underpaid and militias to engage the militants.
Security experts also say the Mozambican army is weak and may not withstand an organised onslaught as witnessed last week when they were overrun by the insurgents.
The experts say in most cases the demoralised soldiers flee from combat once they get into contact with the militants.
“The Mozambican security forces need a total reboot, not just a boost from foreign forces or private military contractors.”
said one security expert following the conflict. “The Mozambican government should seek foreign partners to develop the security services’ intelligence collection, analytic capabilities, basic training,
and specialised counter-insurgency training.
“Mozambique also needs to greatly enhance its maritime capability to combat an insurgency that is expanding its presence in the Indian Ocean”, the expert added.
Colonel Dyck says the Islamist militants are far better equipped and organised than previously, and are “a different calibre of terrorist — they are not running away as much as usual.”
The militants have shown they are no pushovers. Russian mercenaries close to the Kremlin that were engaged by the Mozambican government to confront the Jihadist militants in 2019, retreated after losing battles.
As Sadc leaders make the inevitable move of deploying an intervention force in Mozambique, they must understand that counter insurgency is never just about military victories.
It involves winning hearts and minds which the Mozambican military has done badly at so far.
The authorities in Mozambique must swiftly move to assure communities in the Cabo Delgado region that it has not abandoned them.
The communities must have a sense of entitlement over the vast resources in their midst.
In an article last week, the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said in Afghanistan he saw how tactical military victories over the Taliban by NATO and Afghan government forces were later undone by a failure of government.
Gardner, an experienced war correspondent, said areas liberated from Taliban rule later slipped back under their sway once NATO troops departed and corrupt police and government officials resumed their
nefarious activities at the expense of the local population.
“The same will happen in Mozambique if the coming military effort is not backed up by a marked improvement in civil affairs,” he wrote.