The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is said to be unhappy with Mozambique after Rwanda last week deployed a contingent of 1 000 troops to the country’s conflict-ridden northern provinces ahead of the regional bloc’s standby force.
An extraordinary summit of the SADC heads of state and government held in Maputo last month recommended the deployment of a standby force to help the country fight terrorism in Cabo Delgado province.
But before SADC could deploy its forces, Rwanda last Friday announced that it would put boots on the ground to help stem a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.
Rwanda’s deployment has already annoyed key members of SADC, among them South Africa, The NewsHawks reported.
South Africa’s Defence Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said on Saturday she “regretted” that the deployment of Rwandese troops happened before SADC has deployed its force. She said:
Regardless of the bilateral agreement, it would be expected that Rwanda’s intervention to help Mozambique would happen within the regional mandate decided by the SADC heads of state.
However, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi defended his position. Speaking during a visit to military units deployed in central Mozambique’s Sofala province on Monday, he said Mozambique is “a sovereign nation and SADC respects that”.
A leading political scientist based in Mozambique has said while South Africa’s dissatisfaction over the deployment of Rwandese forces to Mozambique was somehow justified, a US$12 million budget drawn up by SADC is not enough to finance a major operation without external support.
Adriano Navunga, director of the Maputo-based Centre for Democracy and Development, said:
Indeed the South Africans are not happy, understandably. The South Africans have been in the forefront with the SADC deployment to Mozambique and when the extraordinary summit of the heads of state and government endorsed the recommendation to deploy a SADC standby force to Mozambique it was also agreed that Mozambique could tap into other support from African states.
However, the understanding was that such additional support would come within the framework of SADC, not parallel to SADC. But the reality is the current Rwandan deployment is not only parallel to SADC but it has been given priority.
According to a leaked report done by a regional technical team, the SADC intervention force would comprise three light infantry battalions of 620 soldiers each, a light infantry battalion headquarters with 90 troops, two special forces squadrons of 70 soldiers each, 100 engineers, 100 logistics coordinators, 120 signals experts and 42 technicians, among other military personnel.
There are also helicopters as well as transport aircraft, patrol ships, a submarine and a maritime aircraft to patrol the Cabo Delgado coastline to intercept insurgents’ movements, supplies and combat their drug trafficking activities, said to be a source of financing for the insurgency.