Cape Town — A Southern African military mission which has assessed the current conflict in northern Mozambique is warning that so-called “al Shabaab” insurgents could conduct “terror activities” against other countries seen to be supporting the government. It also says there is a “high possibility” of renewed insurgent attacks in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado region after Ramadan.
These assessments, based on a leaked report from the mission, are highlighted in the latest issue of Cabo Ligado, a weekly bulletin from a Mozambican civil society observer group.
The report also says the port town of Mocimboa de Praia, with an estimated population of 120,000, has become a stronghold of “al Shabaab” insurgents, who control its airfield and harbour.
The mission, headed by Botswana's Brigadier Michael Mukokomani, was sent to assess the situation by leaders of the regional grouping, the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It also comprised representatives from Angola, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. It visited Mozambique from April 15 to 21 and was briefed by Mozambican commanders on a trip to Cabo Delgado on April 17.
As previously reported, the mission has proposed that a regional multi-national intervention force should be sent to support government forces in Mozambique.
On the ground, it recommends the deployment of three light infantry battalions, presumably from contributing countries to the “SADC Brigade”, a force being developed under the African Union's project to establish an “African Standby Force” for peacekeeping . The mission proposes that troops should be backed by two special forces squadrons, helicopters and drones.
On the sea, the mission's report calls for patrol ships and submarines to be supported by maritime surveillance aircraft. Mozambique's lack of naval capacity to prevent supplies being provided by insurgents – as well as to stop drug-running – has been a challenge in the fight against violence and crime in the north.
The SADC mission characterises its proposed intervention force as “minimal” and says it will “provide critical assets... whilst also providing logistical support and training to Mozambique.”
Nevertheless, the proposals are a source of contention in Maputo, where political leaders are at odds over the deployment of foreign troops in the country and civil society is concerned that strategy is too focussed on a military response to the insurgency and too little on the development of marginalised communities.
Cabo Ligado reports that an opposition Renamo leader Ossufo Momade is calling for foreign troops, while Roque Silva, secretary-general of the governing Frelimo party, has said that only logistical support is necessary. The bulletin noted that Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosário acknowledged in Parliament that the country is already receiving some military support from its SADC neighbours but sought to discourage public debate on the grounds of security.
The Centre for Democracy and Development, added Cabo Ligado, “slammed the proposal, calling the deployment plan 'inappropriate'... The proposed deployment, CDD said, is 'almost [the size of] a Mozambican army,' and would likely destabilize combat operations while providing no solutions to the social and humanitarian crises at the cent re of the conflict.”