With the lives of an estimated 50,000 people in Mozambique's northern province of Cabo Delgado disrupted by recent insurgent attacks, the country's neighbours are reported to be planning to send troops to the province.
Five heads of state who met in Maputo on Thursday limited themselves in a communique issued afterwards to saying that their summit had “directed an immediate SADC... technical deployment” to Mozambique, followed by further summits at the end of April.
But according to Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the regional grouping, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), is planning to send troops from its “Force Intervention Brigade” to Mozambique.
Quoted on Friday in the state-controlled Herald newspaper in Harare, Mnangagwa said the SADC force “should be resuscitated and capacitated immediately so that it can intervene" in Mozambique. The summit was chaired by President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique and also attended by presidents Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.
In an update on the clashes in the Palma district of Cabo Delgado which began on March 24, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said 50,000 people impacted by the attacks needed emergency food aid.
When the attacks began, the WFP said, more than 70,000 civilians were estimated to be living in Palma – half of them having already fled previous violence in other parts of the province. As of April 3, 10,000 people who fled Palma after March 24 had arrived in other districts of Cabo Delgado by foot, bus, boat and air.
“The recent episodes of violence in Palma contribute to WFP's growing concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian and food security situation brought on by escalating insecurity and displacement in Cabo Delgado,” the WFP added. “More than 950,000 people in Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula [other northern provinces of Mozambique] are now facing severe hunger, while 53 percent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition in Cabo Delgado.”
The United Nations Refugee Agency has reported that more than 670,000 people have been displaced in Cabo Delgado since the insurgency began in 2017.
In another development, the state-owned Notícias newspaper in Maputo has quoted a victim of the Palma clashes as saying the attackers included armed children between the ages of nine and 12. “If confirmed,” reports the monitoring agency Cabo Ligado, “his report would be the first confirmed instance of Cabo Delgado insurgents utilizing child soldiers in an attack.”