July 26, 2021

Southern African states agree on sending troops

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Displaced families arrive in Pemba on May 22, 2021, after fleeing Palma, Mozambique, by boat.

The leaders of the countries of southern Africa announced Wednesday (June 23) in Maputo an agreement on the imminent dispatch of troops to Mozambique, to fight against the jihadist groups which sow terror in the northeast of the country for more than three years.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC, comprising sixteen countries) “Approved the mission of the SADC standby force to support Mozambique in its fight against terrorism and extremist violence in Cabo Delgado”, declared at the end of an extraordinary summit the executive secretary of the organization, Stergomena Tax, without further details.

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At the same time, clashes between jihadists and government forces broke out in the district of Palma (northern Mozambique), near a gas plant worth several million dollars, military and security sources told AFP.

“Insurgents tried to attack the position of government forces in Patacua, near the Mozambique LNG project of the Afungi site and were repulsed with the help of civil aviation”, a security source told AFP.

Terror since the end of 2017

Groups known locally as “Al-Chabab” (“young people” in Arabic) have been reigning terror since the end of 2017 in the poor and predominantly Muslim province of Cabo Delgado, bordering Tanzania, with spectacular violence. , setting fire to villages and beheading men.

Their attacks have been ramping up over the past year. But, until now, President Filipe Nyusi has been reluctant to any foreign aid, insisting on the sovereignty of the country, independent since 1975. The army, poorly trained and equipped, had hitherto relied on military companies private. The possible deployment of 3,000 troops had already been discussed in May at a previous summit of leaders in southern Africa, but no announcement had been made.

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“SADC’s support initiatives are an important complement to our country’s effort to face terrorism with, on the front line, our defense and security forces, who selflessly ensure sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as that the protection of the population “Mr. Nyusi, who has chaired the organization for the past 12 months, said on Wednesday.

On March 24, a large-scale surprise attack on the port city of Palma left dozens dead and tens of thousands displaced. This attack, one of the most important since the start of the violence in Cabo Delgado, provoked the reaction of the international community and interrupted a gas megaproject of 16.8 billion euros, operated by the French Total and located only a few kilometers from Palma.

The Italian ENI, which has launched another gas project in the region, for its part assured Monday not to be affected and to be on track to start operation as planned in 2022.

Nearly 3,000 dead

President Nyusi suffered “Enormous pressure from the organization for the deployment of these troops, because the situation in Mozambique is not only a local situation, it has also turned into a regional dilemma”, Willem Els of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) told AFP.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, which recently urged Mozambique to accept external aid “Measured”, welcomed this decision as “An additional step” in responding to instability in the region.

During an official visit to neighboring South Africa at the end of May, French President Emmanuel Macron said he was ready to “Take part in maritime operations” off Mozambique, if the states of the region so request. Portugal and the United States have already sent soldiers for training missions.

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Leaders from South Africa, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe attended the summit in Maputo, with other countries represented at ministerial level.

Violence in the northeast of the country has killed 2,800 people and forced nearly 800,000 others to flee, according to the UN. They have also caused a serious humanitarian crisis. At the summit, leaders called on member states to provide humanitarian aid. Nearly a million people, most of them displaced, suffer from hunger, according to the World Food Program (WFP).

The World with AFP