Southern Africa: SADC May Propose Response Force For Cabo Delgado - Despite Mozambican Objections to Foreign Troops

Entry to Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique (file photo).

Maputo — According to the South African paper, the "Daily Maverick," military officials from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are expected to recommend this week that a regional rapid response force, almost 3,000 strong, be deployed to the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado immediately - even though the Mozambican government itself has declared that it neither wants, nor needs, foreign troops.

The purpose of such a force would be to help Mozambique combat terrorists linked to the self-styled "Islamic State", and retake territory currently in terrorist hands.

The paper says "the proposed intervention force of 2,916 soldiers would include three light infantry battalions of 630 troops each, two special forces squadrons of 70 troops each; two attack helicopters; two armed helicopters; two surface patrol ships; one submarine; one maritime surveillance aircraft as well as other logistical support aircraft, equipment and personnel".

The proposal seems to be the result of the SADC technical assessment mission which visited Mozambique from 15 to 21 April to assess the help Mozambique needed.

The technical mission is due to report back to a ministerial meeting of the SADC organ on politics, defence and security cooperation to be held in Maputo on Wednesday. A full summit of the security organ "troika", consisting of the Presidents of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, Cyril Ramaphosa, Mokgweetsi Masisi and Emmerson Mnangagwa, will be held the following day. Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi is also expected to attend that meeting.

To date, the Mozambican government has opposed the use of foreign troops in the Cabo Delgado conflict. Speaking at celebrations of Mozambican Women's day, on 7 April, Nyusi stressed that the aid required must not compromise Mozambican sovereignty.

"It is necessary to respect what should be done by the country itself, and what should be done by its allies", Nyusi said.

Allies from abroad "will not come to replace us", he added. "They will come to support us".

The general secretary of the ruling Frelimo Party, Roque Silva, speaking in Cabo Delgado last week, was even more forceful. He categorically denied that Mozambique needs foreign troops to deal with terrorism.

He added that, if foreign troops were the key to beating terrorism, then Afghanistan would no longer be plagued by terrorists, since United States troops have been backing the Afghan government for the past 20 years.

Silva declared that Mozambique has enough competent people in its armed forces to face terrorism. What it needed from its allies was not troops, but training and logistical support.

Training and logistics could be provided immediately, while assembling the proposed rapid response force would take weeks, if not months.

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