The decision last Friday by SADC to structure a comprehensive regional response to the security threats in the DRC and Mozambique demonstrates the bloc’s commitment to fighting terrorism and insurgency, analysts have said.
Mozambique has been battling to contain an Islamist insurgency that started in 2017 and has resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 people while at least 430,000 have been displaced.
The ASWJ terror group, which claims to have links to Islamic State, says it wants to establish a Caliphate in Central Africa.
The DRC has been battling to contain M23 rebels who have killed, maimed and raped civilians in the province of North Kivu in the east of the country.
An Extraordinary summit of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation in Gaborone on November 27 resolved to deal decisively with these security threats.
Present were Organ Chairperson President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi, and President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe.
A communiqué released after the meeting said, “The Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit noted with concern, the acts of terrorism in the region, particularly in Cabo Delgado province of the Republic of Mozambique, and expressed continued SADC solidarity with Mozambique.
“The Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit directed the finalisation of a comprehensive regional response and support to the Republic of Mozambique to be considered urgently by the Summit.”
President Masisi said the insurgency in Mozambique was a threat to the entire region and had to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
“At our last Troika summit that was held on 14 August 2020, we endorsed the report on the assessment of security threats to the SADC region. Even though the report identified a number of security threats, it singled out terrorism as the most serious threat that needs urgent attention from all the member states.
“As we all know, terrorism is very cancerous in nature, once it finds fertile ground it spreads out like a bushfire. There is therefore an absolute need to urgently nip it in the bud before it engulfs the entire region,” he said.
President Masisi also cited increased cybercrime as a regional security threat.
“Even though the region’s performance in the areas of democracy and peace remains the envy of many, there are some emerging issues that are threatening the preservation of our peace and security these include terrorism, insurgencies, cybercrime and transnational organised crimes,” he said.
On DRC, the Extraordinary Summit endorsed the continued support of the United Nations’ Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), a military unit under the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission (MONUSCO).
The mission was authorised by the UN Security Council in 2003 and South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania contribute troops to the operation.
“The Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit accepted the proposal by the United Nations to realign the current Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) troops strength to create the headroom for the Quick Reaction Forces (QRFs), and generate two QRFs from the SADC Troops Contributing Countries,” reads the communique.
“The Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit expressed appreciation to the United Nations for the continued partnership and support. The Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit pledged regional support to the development and implementation of the Joint Strategy on the Progressive and Phased Drawdown of MONUSCO in the DRC.”
The rebels in Mozambique are now crossing the border and reports indicate they recently killed at least 20 people in Tanzania.
This has seen Mozambique and Tanzania signing a memorandum of understanding for the two countries working together to find a cure for the headache.
University of Namibia Political Science lecturer Dr Ndumba Kamwanyah said SADC needed a lasting solution to the security threats, and the Extraordinary Summit resolutions were a step in the right direction.
However, Dr Kamwanyah added that SADC’s solution should be premised on addressing economic challenges in the affected northern part of Mozambique, while shunning combative engagement in line with the African Union Agenda 2030 of silencing guns on the continent.
“My assessment is that the region is reacting rather too late to the Mozambican issue. These insurgencies started terrorising villagers in that country about two years ago. By now SADC could have found both a home-grown and regional-centred solution in Mozambique.
“The major challenge is that countries like Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Malawi, which directly border that country, are already feeling the pinch of instability in Mozambique. So while they are doing something now … my best bet is that they settle for a non-combative solution that deals with the problem once and for all,” he said.
The UNAM lecturer said the challenges in Mozambique had much to do with African countries failing to exploit their natural resources to the benefit of the majority of their citizens, thus creating inequality and creating room for opportunists to take advantage of the situation and sow the seeds of violence.
“If you look at the area where these clashes are happening in Mozambique you, realise that it is a very rich area which recently found multibillion dollar reserves of gas. Ideally this was an opportunity for Mozambique to change their economic fortunes and improve the lifestyles of the people.
“But unfortunately again this is turning to be another resource curse in our continent where whenever discoveries are made it results in our people killing each other, rather than improving their lives. For now it is very clear that there might be outside forces that are also destabilising this rich area so that they get a share of that gas,” he said.
Reporting by Leslie Chimbama in Harare and Tiri Masawi in Windhoek