Southern Africa is developing a comprehensive regional response amid fears that the drums of war could silence hopes of peace in northern Mozambique where an armed insurgency has triggered a humanitarian crisis due to a surge in internally displaced persons.
Worried about the effects of failure to resolve the growing Cabo Delgado civil war, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security convened an extraordinary summit on 27 November in Botswana to map out a strategy for this and other regional hotspots.
The Organ agreed on urgent regional action to address the acts of terrorism in Cabo Delgado province and expressed continued SADC solidarity with the government of President Filipe Nyusi.
"The Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit directed the finalization of a comprehensive regional response and support to the Republic of Mozambique to be considered urgently by the Summit," the Organ said in a communique.
SADC is due to hold an extraordinary summit involving heads of state and government of all the 16 Member States in March 2021 in Maputo, Mozambique.
The extraordinary summit of the SADC Organ Troika took place amid a surge in armed attacks in Cabo Delgado by militants who claim to be linked to the terrorist organisation, Islamic State.
The insurgency has displaced more than 500,000 people from hotspots in the province, with about 2,000 others killed.
The main concern for the region is that the longer it takes to resolve the issue, the more complex the crisis will become and the more difficult it will be to find a solution.
"As we all know, terrorism is very cancerous in nature. Once it finds fertile ground, it spreads out like bushfire. There is, therefore, an absolute need to urgently nip it in the bud before it engulfs the entire region," Organ Chairperson and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during the extraordinary summit.
Another issue of concern among regional players is that situation has already begun to attract political and economic vultures who are hoping to profit from the challenges in the province.
Many of them come with neo-colonial, racist and anti-Islam agendas, or are trying to use Mozambique as a pawn in global chess games.
Already a number of countries have shown interest in the goings-on in Cabo Delgado, among them France and United States.
Both Paris and Washington are trying to become involved in patrolling the coast of Cabo Delgado.
France has been discussing a military maritime cooperation agreement with Mozambique in the context of possible support in the fight against insurgents in Cabo Delgado.
The island of Mayotte, located about 500 kilometres east of the Mozambican coastal city of Pemba, is officially part of mainland France and has an important French military base.
In addition, France has several islands in the Mozambique Channel between Mozambique and Madagascar.
The US government believes that the situation in Cabo Delgado is "a security threat that has a nexus to criminality, to terrorism, and to looking at sort of governance capacity, law enforcement capacity, and military capacity within Mozambique."
At least one US private security company is already recruiting Portuguese-speaking US nationals to "provide strategic and tactical advisory support services" to the Mozambique government.
According to the Americans, there is a lot of overlap between the drug traffickers and extremists and the types of conditions that enable them to thrive.
The US State Department has, therefore, offered to support the Mozambican government's counter-narcotics efforts in order to cut-off what it believes is the financial lifeline for the insurgents operating in Cabo Delgado.
Faced with this scenario, SADC is considering support to its member state, hence the decision to develop a comprehensive regional response.
The Organ meeting also discussed the security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and pledged regional support to the development and implementation of the Joint Strategy on the Progressive and Phased Drawdown of MONUSCO in the DRC.
Approved in October, the strategy calls for a gradual withdrawal of United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) peacekeepers from several regions of the DRC.
The UN last year adopted Resolution 2502 to reconfigure the Force Intervention Brigade, which falls under (MONUSCO), and extended MONUSCO's mandate by another year up 20 December 2020.
According to SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, there have been a number of engagements between the SADC Secretariat, the DRC government and the UN since the last SADC Summit held in August.
The engagements have involved discussions FIB reconfiguration and on the formulation of the strategy for the progressive and phased drawdown of the MONUSCO.
"These engagements were held with a view to ensure that the reconfiguration of the FIB, and formulation of the exit strategy are conducted in the best interests of the DRC and the SADC's support to the country," Dr Tax said.
The Organ Troika, which comprises the leaders of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, is responsible for promoting peace and security in SADC and protecting the region from instability due to the breakdown of law and order as well as developing a common foreign policy for the region.
It is currently chaired by President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as deputy chairperson and President Emmerson Mnangagwa as outgoing chairperson.
Other SADC leaders who attended the Organ Extraordinary Summit were DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi who is the SADC deputy chairperson.
They were joined by Mozambique's Defence Minister Jaime Neto and Tanzanian Vice President Samia Hassan.
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