FRESH fissures have emerged in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) after Rwanda last week deployed a contingent of 1 000 troops to conflict-ridden northern Mozambique ahead of the regional bloc’s standby force, The NewsHawks has established.
An extraordinary summit of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) heads of state and government held in Maputo last month recommended the deployment of a standby force to help the country fight terrorism in Cabo Delgado province.
Sadc’s recommendation for the deployment of troops came after the bloc’s technical assessment mission recommended immediate military intervention in April to repel acts of violent extremism and terrorism in Mozambique.
Following last month’s Sadc decision to deploy troops to Mozambique following weeks of dithering over the decision, Rwanda last Friday announced that it would put boots on the ground to help stem a conflict which has claimed thousands of lives.
The conflict has also resulted in Total, a French-headquartered energy group, suspending its multi-billion-dollar energy project in the region.
Rwanda’s deployment has already irked key members of Sadc.
South Africa’s Defence minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said on Saturday she “regretted” that “it happens before Sadc has deployed its force”.
“Regardless of the bilateral agreement, it would be expected that Rwanda’s intervention to help Mozambique would happen within the regional mandate decided by the Sadc heads of state,” she said in an interview with the country’s public broadcaster.
However, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi defended his position. As extensively reported by The NewsHawks, Nyusi has always preferred bilateral military cooperation ahead of a multilateral approach due to complexities of the conflict.
Nyusi says regional bloc Sadc has made room for the country to receive bilateral support in the fight against terrorism in Cabo Delgado, considering that the nation is sovereign.
“We are a sovereign nation and Sadc respects that,” Nyusi said, speaking during a visit to military units deployed in central Mozambique’s Sofala province on Monday.
A leading political scientist based in Mozambique has said while South Africa’s dissatisfaction over the deployment of Rwandese forces to conflict-ridden Mozambique ahead of a regional standby force was somehow justified, a US$12 million budget drawn up by the southern African regional bloc is not enough to finance a major operation without external support.
Adriano Navunga, director of the Maputo-based Centre for Democracy and Development, said it would have been ideal if Rwanda, which has strong diplomatic relations with the United States and France, worked with Sadc or the African Union.
“Indeed the South Africans are not happy, understandably. The South Africans have been in the forefront with the Sadc deployment to Mozambique and when the extraordinary summit of the heads of state and government endorsed the recommendation to deploy a Sadc standby force to Mozambique it was also agreed that Mozambique could tap into other support from African states,” Nuvunga said.
“However, the understanding was that such additional support would come within the framework of Sadc, not parallel to Sadc. But the reality is the current Rwandan deployment is not only parallel to Sadc but it has been given priority. This might have to do with the readiness of Rwanda. It has already deployed 1 000 troops and Sadc is still preparing itself although it has communicated having a US$12 million budget which is too small for the type of deployment that they want to make. So their dissatisfaction is understandable.
“We have also wanted the Rwandese deployment to be part of the existing African mechanisms and institutions and not parallel African mechanisms like the regional bodies Sadc and the African Union. But that is the reality and it is consistent with Mozambique, which has been preferring more bilateral than multilateral mechanisms. We have not yet been informed about the terms of engagement of this Rwandese mission so it is not yet clear. They are already in Mozambique but, to our knowledge, they are not yet deployed to the field. They are still in Nacala where they are waiting for instructions and preparations.”
The Sadc intervention force, according to a leaked report done by a regional technical team, would comprise three light infantry battalions of 620 soldiers each, a light infantry battalion headquarters with 90 troops, two special forces squadrons of 70 soldiers each, 100 engineers, 100 logistics coordinators, 120 signals experts and 42 technicians, among other military personnel.
There are also helicopters as well as transport aircraft, patrol ships, a submarine and a maritime aircraft to patrol the Cabo Delgado coastline to intercept insurgents’ movements, supplies and combat their drug trafficking activities, said to be a source of financing for the insurgency.
The technical assessment team also recommended a phased approach implemented in four stages: deployment of intelligence assets (land, air and maritime) to understand the insurgents’ operations; special forces and naval equipment; pacification operations and withdrawal.
This plan entails the deployment of Sadc troops to support the local army, providing the Mozambican military with training and support; and ensuring logistical support.
These combined and self-reinforcing actions are ultimately designed to neutralise the insurgents whose centres of gravity, including strategic, operational, tactical, critical capabilities, needs, strengths and vulnerabilities issues, were identified by the Sadc technical team.