When President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi became SADC chairperson on 17 August 2020, his country was battling insurgency. However, to date, the regional body has not actioned an effective strategy to deal with suspected Islamist militants in Cabo Degaldo.
SADC’s stance and failure to action its own statute — Article 6 of the Mutual Defence Pact — has cemented the assertion of its struggle to restore peace and stability to one of its member states, whose citizens are in dire need of aid.
The wave of violence has left an estimated 2,600 people dead and the UN reports that over 700,000 people have been displaced.
Despite the urgency to restore peace, the SADC Extraordinary Double Troika Summit which was scheduled for Thursday 29th April 2021 has been postponed indefinitely.
This is because Botswana President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi — the SADC Organ chairperson — is currently in quarantine. The incoming chairperson, South Africa’s President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa, was also said to be committed elsewhere.
SADC’s capacity to deal with the insurgency
SADC claims to have “no capacity to deal with the violence in Mozambique” but the regional body can act as a link between Mozambique and the AU that “already has the West African experience of fighting violent extremism,” says Professor Adriano Alfredo Nuvunga, a civil society activist and director at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).
“It is Mozambique’s responsibility to fight violent extremism and solve its own problems. But co-operation is important. Input from the regional block is equally important… So military intervention is not expected but support at the policy level,” he says.
Nuvunga believes that failure by President Nyusi to tap into SADC’s capacity to broker peace through the AU has adverse consequences not only for Mozambique but the region.
“President Nyusi is the chairman of SADC and people expected him to use SADC but that has not been the case… While SADC has its own shortcomings, it was Maputo that was not responding convincingly,” he tells The Africa Report.
Dewa Mavhinga — Southern Africa director with the Africa division at Human Rights Watch — says SADC member states cannot just walk into Mozambique as it is a sovereign state. The onus is on President Nyusi reach out to the regional body as he has done with the EU and the UK.
Who is behind the unrest?
Patience Rusare, a Rotary Peace Fellow at Makerere University’s Rotary Peace Centre and Ambassador for the Institute for Economics and Peace, describes the Mozambican crisis as SADC’s tall order. She expresses doubts as to whether an exclusive SADC or AU military intervention in Cabo Delgado will yield peace and stability.
Mozambique characterises the insurgency as a policing action, a law enforcement operation which is entirely within their sovereign jurisdiction… An intervention may be problematic because of the dynamics involved, –Michael Schmidt, a human rights rapporteur.
In her paper titled Mozambique conflict: Who is behind the unrest?, Rusare argues that SADC should initiate dialogue with other countries in Africa.
Citing the AU pitfalls, she says the regional body and its various organs are bound by the principle of subsidiarity, which compels the AU to defer to the eight regional economic communities (RECs) and regional mechanisms when responding to conflicts.
Rusare says SADC has been insistent on upholding subsidiarity, notably when it comes to issues such as the crisis in Lesotho, Zimbabwe and currently Mozambique.
“The AU has in various instances offered its assistance, but continues to defer to SADC. However, the AU can deploy a fact-finding mission in Mozambique to examine issues in the southern African country. This will prompt reaction from member states,” she says.
Rusare proposes that the AU could consider regional military intervention if Mozambique and its neighbours agree. “The AU has spearheaded various military interventions, such as the Multi-National Joint Task Force against Boko Haram and the AU Mission in Somalia, and has supported initiatives such as the G5 Sahel,” she says.
Mozambique: Stumbling block
“If the president of Mozambique is acting in the interest of the citizens, he should reach out and ask for direct help … from SADC and pave way for a roadmap to restore peace and security and stability,” says Mavhinga.
“He [Nyusi] must also reach out to international humanitarian agencies and ensure that there is sufficient security and stability to enable those agencies to do their work on the ground,” he tells The Africa Report.
According to Mavhinga, President Nyusi must be specific about his country’s needs and shortcomings such as the state of its security forces.
“There is too much corruption and they have failed to control their territory and bring peace there and they should not be resorting to mercenaries but rather to a more comprehensive approach through the help of SADC that ensures real and lasting peace. Mozambique must act and it must act fast,” says Mavingha.
Mozambique prefers non-African solutions?
Mozambique seems to be resisting any military support from the region, preferring private military or non-African solutions, says Liesl Louw-Vaudran, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria.
“President Nyusi must allow for the peace and security council of the AU to discuss this crisis, to intervene and support SADC. Mozambique should accept a holistic strategy from the SADC region, humanitarian assistance and whatever security measures SADC as a body comes up with. It should just accept it regardless of which country is leading this,” she tells The Africa Report.
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“Calling on the US and Portugal and the EU to support at the long term is not a good strategy because of resentment and also because there are all kinds of issues. Mozambique should favour, co-operate and accept the SADC agenda and plan rather than opting for either private military or non-African solutions,” she says.
It would be ideal if SADC came up with “coordinated surveillance, intelligence sharing, rooted from all previous experiences,” adds Louw-Vaudran.
Mixed signals from Nyusi
Michael Schmidt, an Africa correspondent and human rights rapporteur, says while SADC has attempted to discuss the Mozambican crisis, “this has not escalated to the point of rapid response action.”
He likens the situation to when South African and Botswana forces intervened in Lesotho to deal with mutiny.
“But it was at the invitation of the government. Remember it took about three months to plan that intervention in 1998. Supposedly the rapid response forces are exactly like that they can be a lot quicker, but it is all contingent on the political theme that guides such an intervention to occur,” he says.
Schmidt argues that President Nyusi is sending mixed signals with regards to his country’s capacity to deal with the militants. “Mozambique characterises the insurgency as a policing action, a law enforcement operation which is entirely within their sovereign jurisdiction.”
“An intervention may be problematic because of the dynamics involved. There are real socio-economic reasons driving the insurgency you need to not only look at the Islamic element,” he says.
He says while no one can agree on the character of the insurgency, it is clear that there is a component of deep anger and dissatisfaction over economic conditions in the region.
“So going in militarily does not solve those issue. Any resolution needs to be a peaceful resolution. If SADC is to go, it must not only look at conflict resolution in terms of military strategy or law enforcement or just policing. But it needs to look at the living conditions of the people within this immense cash cow (the gas project),” he adds.
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