Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi declared on Wednesday that the conditions have now been met for Mozambique to accept the support that its partners in SADC (Southern African Development Community) may grant for the fight against terrorism, but he insisted that the main role in this struggle will be played by the Mozambican defence and security forces themselves.
Nyusi was speaking at the end of an extraordinary SADC summit, called mainly to discuss the SADC response to the islamist terrorist attacks in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
SADC initiatives, Nyusi said, "will be important complements to the efforts which the country is undertaking to confront terrorism".
In the front line of this struggle, he continued, "are our defence and security forces who are selflessly determined to guarantee our sovereignty and territorial integrity and to protect our population".
The final communique from the summit said the leaders "approved the Mandate for the SADC Standby Force Mission to the Republic of Mozambique, to be deployed under the SADC Standby Force in support of Mozambique to combat terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado".
The communique gave no details of the Standby Force Mission. However, in April a SADC Technical Mission recommended the immediate dispatch of an intervention forced of almost 3,000 troops to Cabo Delgado. The detailed proposal was for 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.
Whether the SADC leaders have accepted this proposal, in whole or in part, is not yet clear. Nor is it yet known which SADC members will provide the troops, the ships and the aircraft, or how the operation will be paid for.
The communique also said the summit "urged the Member States in collaboration with Humanitarian Agencies to continue providing humanitarian support to the population affected by the terrorist attacks". To date, well over 700,000 people have been displaced from their homes by the jihadist raids, carried out by groups known locally as "Al Shabaab", and who have aligned themselves with the international terrorist network known as "Islamic state", or ISIS.
The consensus reached, Nyusi said, showed that all SADC member states want an institutionally solid organization, with well-defined objectives and priorities.
"We need greater inter-institutional coordination", he added. "We need to make operational the Standby Force, we need to control our borders in implementing the strategy of the SADC industrialization road map, as well as in fighting terrorism and other ills".
Among the leaders attending the Maputo summit was the new Tanzanian President, Samia Hassan. This was the first SADC summit she has attended. Tanzania is critical to the fight against terrorism, since it has a lengthy border with Cabo Delgado, and Tanzanian jihadists are known to be playing a leading role in the Cabo Delgado war.
Hassan attended the opening session of the summit, but did not stay to the end of the meeting.
The next summit of SADC will take place in Malawi in August, when Nyusi will hand over the rotating presidency of the organization to his Malawian counterpart, Lazarus Chakwera.