Southern Africa: Regional Bloc to Meet in January Over Mozambique's Cabo Delgado Situation

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has scheduled for January a heads of state summit to analyse the situation in Cabo Delgado.

The decision was made Monday in Mozambique's capital Maputo after a meeting involving Presidents Filipe Nyusi (Mozambique), Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa), Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana), Emmerson Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe) and Tanzania deputy President Samia Suluhu.

The Monday meeting "reaffirmed the need of the holding of a SADC in-person extraordinary summit to address the security situation in Mozambique as well as the business forum in March," Verónica Macamo, Mozambique's Foreign Affairs and Cooperation minister, announced.

In August, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi took over from his Tanzania counterpart, John Magufuli, as the chairpersonship of the regional bloc SADC.

The SADC bloc includes Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

South Africa is the largest economy and the most developed SADC state.

An insurgency in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province that borders Tanzania has seen atrocities, including beheading of civilians, reported there. The northern province has a population of 1,893,156 spread over its 77,867-km² and 16 districts.

The attacks began in October 2017 on police stations in Mocimboa da Praia District, then spread to other districts in the northern part of Cabo Delgado, notably in Macomia, Palma and Nangade. The violence also affected the electoral process, with the government imposing restrictions to campaigns in northern Cabo Delgado.

Now a group calling itself al-Shabaab, with no known links to the Somali militant group by the same name, has pronounced intention to create a caliphate and pledged allegiance to the ISIS terror group. So far, an estimated 2,000 people have been killed and another 400,000 displaced.

Last week, a top US counter-terrorism expert ruled out the possibility of American soldiers going to Mozambique to help tame the rising insurgency, but said Washington would help equip regional governments to fight terrorism in southern Africa.

Speaking during his recent tour of Mozambique, Nathan Sales, the US Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, said Washington will instead focus on addressing local enablers that have made the insurgency to thrive.

"What we have done in other parts of the world, and indeed, in other parts of Africa, is provide an integrated suite of capabilities and equipment needed to execute those capabilities," Sales told a telephonic press conference on Tuesday night, referring to Mozambique's abilities to bring to book terror merchants as well as control movements across the borders.

"We're talking about law enforcement capabilities to investigate and prosecute terrorist crimes or to respond to terrorist attacks and prevent them from causing even more bloodshed."

Meanwhile, the Portuguese Defence Minister João Cravinho Friday said that his country would organise logistics and train local army to fight insurgency in Cabo Delgado province.

Mozambique attained independence from Portugal in 1975, and Lisbon and Maputo have had a defence cooperation deal since 1988.

Speaking in Maputo last week, Cravinho said that from January a team of Portuguese soldiers will work with the General Army Staff of the Mozambique Security and Defence forces to design a training project. The training will cover rapid intervention forces, special forces, marines and tactical air control personnel with cyber defence, cartography and hydrography.

"Portugal will take over the Europe Union chair in January and it will reinforce Maputo's already made request for Brussels support," he added.

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