MAPUTO – Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi on a visit to the troubled northern Cabo Delgado province Monday, unveiled the Southern African troops sent to fight the region’s insurgents. The Southern African Development Community’s Standby Force includes troops from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Tanzania. The SADC troops are being deployed as Mozambican and Rwandan troops on Sunday say they retook a key port city that the Islamist militants held for two years.
In a live broadcast on state radio and television Monday from Cabo Delgado’s provincial capital, Pemba, President Filipe Nyusi addressed southern African troops deployed to the region to fight insurgents.
Southern African Development Community members Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Tanzania are the first in the 16-member group to send troops to Mozambique.
Nyusi thanked SADC for its engagement and underscored the need to coordinate in battling the Islamist militants.
To the SADC standby forces who are here, he says, we appeal once again for greater coordination on the operational theater and rigorous observation of the benchmarks of responsibility, strategically defined. Nyusi says they demand communication, exchange of operative information on the ground, discipline and respect for human life.
The total number of soldiers the group is sending to Mozambique has not been made public. But experts from SADC, who were in Cabo Delgado, suggested that the mission should comprise around 3,000 troops.
Botswana in late July announced it was sending almost 300 troops to fight in Mozambique, and its president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, attended Monday’s unveiling.
The commander of the SADC standby force is South African Major General Xolani Mankayi. Speaking on a state broadcaster from Pemba, he said they would do everything possible to restore peace in the affected areas.
“The SADC region state as described above is (to) facilitate the creation of a secure environment, to ensure that the state authority is in full control of the Cabo Delgado affected areas, and normal lives can resume,” Mankayi said.
Nyusi had been reluctant to allow foreign troops into Mozambique’s conflict, but in July confirmed that outside help was needed to defeat the insurgents.
Rwanda, which is not a SADC member, sent 1,000 troops in early July to Cabo Delgado, where they say they are making gains fighting alongside Mozambique’s.
Spokesman for Mozambique’s Ministry of Defense, Omar Saranga, late Sunday announced they had regained control of the port town of Mocímboa da Praia.
He says it is important to highlight that the success of the operations is due to the effective collaboration of the local communities, which is why they call for the reinforcement of collective vigilance. Bear in mind, says Saranga, that due to the push of the ongoing offensive, terrorists will tend to infiltrate, with the aim of disrupting searches, as well as registration of rescued populations.
The ministry said the insurgents, who call themselves Al-Shabab but are not connected to the Somali Islamist group of the same name, had controlled the port for more than two years.
Since the insurgents began fighting in 2017 near rich oil and gas deposit projects, more than 2,500 people have been killed.
More than 800,000 people have been displaced by the fighting since April 2020, while gas projects worth billions have been put on hold.