SADC troops arrive in Mozambique to reinforce the fight against terrorism

The latest terrorist attacks in the country are worrying international organisations, which have already announced the creation of international missions to curb the jihadist threat

PHOTO/AP  -   Rwandan armed forces prepare to board a flight to Mozambique, at the airport in Kigali, Rwanda, Saturday, July 10, 2021

Several military aircraft from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have arrived at the airport of Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado, to continue the fight against the jihadist threat. In this East African region, jihadists have staged several offensives since October 2017 that have subsequently been claimed since 2019 by the Islamic State in Central Africa (ISCA) terrorist group.

However, the ISCA is not the only jihadist group in the region. Islamist militiamen known as Al-Shabaab would not be related to the group of the same name operating in Somalia, but would be related to Al-Qaeda. Still, most of the attacks have been claimed by the ISCA, which has stepped up its violent actions since March.

PHOTO/REUTERS - Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi

SADC soldiers from South Africa and Botswana have so far been deployed to the area. However, an official figure for the number of troops deployed is still awaited, and could be as many as 3,000 soldiers to combat the insurgency. In this regard, the presence of jihadism in the territory has caused the displacement of some 800,000 people since 2017. In addition, at least 1.3 million people in both Cabo Delgado province and neighbouring Niassa and Nampula are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance and protection.

In recent days, the ISCA has claimed responsibility for an attack in northern Mozambique that killed at least 15 soldiers, although the Mozambican authorities have yet to comment on the matter. In mid-June, at least 10 people were killed in Quiwiya, a village in Mozambique close to the Tanzanian border. In this regard, at the end of June, Mozambique's president, Filipe Nyusi, stressed that the Mozambican army would intensify "the hunt for terrorists" in view of the increase in attacks in the province of Cabo Delgado.

PHOTO/AP - In this Saturday, March 23, 2019 file photo, displaced families arrive after being rescued by boat from a flooded area in Buzi district, 200 kilometres from Beira, Mozambique.

According to the Mozambican daily O País, the president reportedly declared that "all Mozambicans must stand together to fight terrorism". It was like that in the past and it will be no different now. We must stand united to fight terrorism". Thus, as a measure to eradicate the jihadist threat, SADC decided to send troops to Mozambique at a meeting that approved the deployment of military troops to the country after months of deliberations and disagreements. The disagreements were caused by the president himself, who was reluctant to receive foreign troops in his country, while other states, such as South Africa, had maintained strong pressure for military intervention.

The terrorist group's intention is to take over the city of Palma, an important national port. In addition, a few months ago, just 12 kilometres from Qiwiya, a village was raided and looted by ISCA terrorists. 

AFP/ JOHN WESSELS - Young people displaced by violence in northern Mozambique carry sacks of food on their heads after buying them with vouchers in Pemba on 24 May 2021. 

The biggest spike in terrorist attacks in the region occurred last March in the city of Palma. The Spanish Interior Ministry reiterated its "solidarity with the Government of Mozambique in its fight against terrorism, and with the people of Mozambique, especially the citizens of Cabo Delgado, who have been suffering for more than three years the consequences of a conflict that has already claimed more than 2,000 victims and displaced 650,000 people".

Alongside this, the European Council has already announced an EU military mission in Mozambique, EUTM Mozambique. The aim of this mission is to "train and assist the Mozambican Armed Forces" in order to protect the civilian population and restore security in the province of Cabo Delgado. 

AFP/AFP - Map of Mozambique showing the province of Cabo Delgado and the city of Palma.

Alongside this, the European Council has already announced an EU military mission in Mozambique, EUTM Mozambique. The aim of this mission is to "train and assist the Mozambican Armed Forces" in order to protect the civilian population and restore security in the province of Cabo Delgado.

This decision is in response to requests from the Mozambican authorities. In principle, the mission will be established for two years and its strategic objective will be to "support the development of the capabilities of the units of the Mozambican armed forces selected to form a future rapid reaction force", according to the European Council. 

PHOTO/AP - Rwanda said Friday it would immediately deploy 1,000 members of its armed forces and police to northern Mozambique to help fight an Islamic extremist insurgency.

In addition, the commission will provide military training, specialised information on the fight against terrorism and education on the protection of the civilian population, as well as ensuring compliance with International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.