Maputo — Mozambique's Defence Minister, Jaime Neto, has told reporters that everything is ready for Mozambique to receive troops from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to assist the country in the fight against terrorism in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
Cited by the independent television station STV, Neto denied reports that the arrival of troops from the regional body has been delayed becaue Mozambique has not signed a "status of forces" agreement.
As far as Neto was concerned, the date for the arrival of the first SADC contingent remans Thursday, 15 July. "There are already officers in Mozambique who are dealing with the arrival of this SADC intervention force", he said.
If anything did delay the arrival of the SADC force, "that's not our responsiblity. But we are prepared", he said.
It is expected that the SADC force will remain in Mozambique for three months, fighting alongside troops from Rwanda and from the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM) themselves against the islamist terrorists known locally as "Al-Shabaab", and who have proclaimed their loyalty to the international terrorist network known as "Islamic State" or ISIS.
Nothing has been said publicly about the exact composition of the SADC Standby Force, or which of the member states are contributing to it.
The final communique from the SADC heads of state summit held in Maputo in late June said the leaders "approved the Mandate for the SADC Standby Force Mission to the Republic of Mozambique, to be deployed 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 force 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 still not clear.