Limited Legal Options for SADC Military Action in Mozambique

The SADC's communiqué after its April 8, 2021 meeting in response to the Palma attack, said the "heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response." The meeting mandated an immediate 'SADC Organ technical deployment' to Mozambique. While it remains unclear what the technical deployment means or aims to achieve, the communiqué suggests a SADC military response is being considered. Another meeting is planned for April 28 and 29. If SADC decides on military action, it will need to be rooted in international and regional law. SADC has numerous legal bases for a military response. These include military assistance on request (intervention by invitation), collective self-defence, and United Nations Security Council-approved military intervention. The first two contemplate cooperation founded on Mozambican consent; the third can be used when Mozambican support isn't forthcoming.

The insurgency, now in its fourth year, exposes Mozambique's lack of political will to address the crisis. The most direct option for military help on request would see SADC relying on the Mozambican government's consent to deploy troops from neighbouring states. Mozambique could also consent to a SADC-proposed military response. However, Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi hasn't agreed to any such response. He has repeatedly emphasised the country's sovereign status and indicated that Mozambique alone would decide on the terms and conditions of any international aid it may need.

InFocus

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

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