Mozambican President rebuffs all-out regional military assistance against insurgents

Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi

A day ahead of regional meetings on the deepening crisis in Mozambique, President Filipe Nyusi has said any international intervention must not violate his country’s sovereignty.

Mozambique has told the international community what it needs to fight the Islamic insurgency in the northern Cabo Delgado province, and the country will decide which parts of the problem it will tackle on its own, Nyusi said Wednesday.

“We know in which areas we need support and which areas are up to us, Mozambicans, to solve,” Nyusi said in an address to mark Mozambican Women’s Day, according to local news agency Lusa.

“Our government has told the international community the needs for the fight against terrorism, and these needs are being assessed,” Nyusi said. “Those who arrive from abroad will not replace us, they will support us. It is not empty pride. It is a sense of sovereignty.”

Nyusi did not specify which areas his country would seek international help for and which should be left to Mozambique. However, at a SADC summit in Botswana last November, his Defence Minister said what his country needed was not intervention, but weapons and other resources.

Nyusi appears reluctant to invite a full SADC intervention, despite growing pressure on the region to step in.

The war would not be won “if it isn’t clear from the beginning what can be done by the country itself and what can be done by allies”.

SADC’s double troika

On Thursday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa travels to Maputo to attend an Extraordinary Double Troika Summit of SADC. The Summit was called by Botswana’s Mokgweetsi Masisi, Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.

The Double Troika includes the troika of the current SADC Chairperson, Nyusi himself, the incoming chair, Malawi, and Tanzania, the immediate previous or outgoing chair. It also includes the Troika of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, made up of Botswana, South Africa (incoming chair) and Zimbabwe, the outgoing chair.

Nyusi spoke after an armed attack on the town of Palma provided a fresh reminder of the scale of the crisis, and the inadequacy of Mozambican forces to respond.

In his speech, Nyusi said: “The terrorists have been expelled from Palma, we do not intend to proclaim victory because we are fighting terrorism, but we are sure that if we are united, we will win.”

The conflict has killed over 2,000 people and displaced 700,000 more. The United Nations expects the number of displaced people to reach a million by May.

Pressure on SADC

SADC faces calls to act, but under regional security pacts, the region cannot intervene in Mozambique without that country making a formal appeal. Nyusi is yet to take that step, preferring only resources and logistical support instead.

Nyusi says his government needs to modernise and equip its forces, noting that the army is suffering the effects of decades of lack of “solid investment”.

Reflecting the depth of the crisis, Nyusi said a military response alone would not end the conflict, which has been fuelled by poverty in the country’s most deprived region. Employment creation would keep youths away from the armed groups, he said.

On Tuesday, Lusa reported that there is evidence that child soldiers are now being recruited by the insurgents.

“Some people who went to the insurgents’ camps found children,” said Latifo Fonseca, a Catholic priest and researcher in Pemba. – NewZwire