Maputo — South Africa will lead the troops of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) against the terrorist groups operating in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, with Botswana assisting, but Mozambique will have an overall coordination role, declared the Chief of Staff of the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM), Joaquim Mangrasse, on Friday.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony for Mozambican marines trained at Katembe, in the Bay of Maputo, Mangrasse said Mozambique will provide the General Staff for the entire anti-terrorist operation.
Nine Mozambican officers have been chosen to be in all positions of coordination, although each SADC country will command its own forces, with South Africa, as the country with the largest force, in overall control.
"We are part of the coordination mechanism of this force, occupying the position of General Staff", said Mangrasse.
Asked about the role of the European Union, Mangrasse said that officers from the EU are training Mozambican marines in Katembe, and special forces in the central city of Chimoio.
Defence Minister Jaime Neto, who chaired the Friday ceremony, declared that the presence of foreign troops fighting the terrorists in Cabo Delgado does not diminish the role of Mozambique itself, and that Mozambicans still have the primary role in defending the country.
100 marines - 97 of them Mozambicans and three Malawians - concluded the Katembe course. Neto told them they must behave as "men of honour", respecting constitutional principles, and not allowing themselves to be enticed by the enemy. He did not want to hear that any former marines had joined the ranks of the terrorists.
Neto urged the marines to defend human rights, and not to become viewed as criminals. "The difference is clear", he said. "The terrorists kill the population, while you protect the population".
There should be no tolerance for violations of human rights, he stressed, which might lead the public to confuse the Mozambican defence forces with the terrorists.
During their missions, he continued, the marines should develop healthy relations with the local civilian population. He recognized that "some terrorists use our uniforms to perpetrate macabre actions which are later attributed to the FADM".
He urged the troops to show military discipline, and to obey the hierarchy and chain of command, in order to guarantee success in their missions.
"The country trusts you!", he exclaimed, "So show your courage in the theatre of operations, just as you did during your training".