Let’s face it, any disturbing developments in a neighbouring country have the effect of being contagious if not carefully managed.
There is something disturbing taking place in Mozambique in the province of Cabo Delgado. Since the discovery of massive gas deposits, armed groups have been ravaging communities, murdering civilians and thousands displaced.
Naturally, the disturbances are a concern for SADC, the regional bloc whose main thrust is not only economic development, but maintaining and safeguarding peace and stability.
Realising the seriousness of the developments in Cabo Delgado, Sadc recently held a summit in Botswana to assess the threats to the region posed by the Mozambican insurgents.
The objective of the summit was to deliberate on the reconfiguration of the Force Intervention Brigade and the United Nations stabilisation mission in the DRC and the terrorism situation in the region.
The Extraordinary Troika meeting was hosted by Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, the current chair for the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.
Curiously, the President of Mozambique Filipe Nyusi did not attend the summit, choosing instead to send his Defence Minister Jaime Bessa Augustino Neto.
Similarly, and as has become tradition, Tanzania’s President sent his Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
Mozambique and Tanzania are the two main countries mostly affected by the insurgencies, with some of the fighters said to be crossing from the latter.
Although SADC expressed grave concern over the armed groups in Cabo Delgado, observers were taken aback by the somewhat lukewarm attitude of Mozambique.
It appears as though Mozambican authorities believe that the situation in their northernmost province hasn’t gotten to a level of having a regional military force intervening.
In fact, the Mozambican Defence Minister indicated to the summit that his government would send a signal to the region if situation warranted a collective solidarity force.
That as it may, the Botswana summit directed the finalisation of a comprehensive regional response and support to the Republic of Mozambique to be considered urgently by the summit.
It also pledged regional support to the development and implementation of the Joint Strategy on the Progressive and Phased Drawdown of MONUCSCO in the DRC.
A point to note is that despite the Mozambicans’ somewhat lukewarm attitude, four days before the Botswana Summit they had signed a memorandum of understanding with Tanzania for joint efforts in dealing with escalating armed attacks by ISIL-linked fighters.
The agreement signed by the two countries’ police forces includes the extradition of 516 fighters from Tanzania to Mozambique. So why is Mozambique not so keen at this stage to have a regional force in Cabo Delgado?
In the absence of intelligence information, all one can do is speculate.
First, the Mozambican government might have certain intelligence information that everyone doesn’t have and are uncomfortable with an immediate regional intervention that might jeopardise current strides made in vanquishing the armed group.
Second, since the violence is at the moment concentrated exclusively in Cabo Delgado, the Mozambican authorities are not keen in inviting an international force as this would escalate the situation to a full blown conflict thereby attracting other far afield armed groups that share the same sentiments with the one operating in that province.
Third, companies that have set shop and intend to invest in Cabo Delgado have obvious vested interested and might be advising the Mozambican authorities on the best strategies in dealing with the armed group.
Fourth, the armed group or groups do not operate in a formalised fashion. The sporadic attacks by the group make it extremely difficult for a conventional force to decisively deal with them.
In the final analysis, while we are not privy to intelligence information informing the attitude of Mozambican authorities, the country still needs regional support. South Africa must assist Mozambique not only because it has companies interested in investing in the gas rich province, but could use its financial muscle to assist the latter’s defence forces. Relying on private security companies like one led by Colonel Lionel Dyke (Retired) is surely not the ultimate.