Regional leaders are to meet in Harare on Tuesday 19 May where they are expected to address the growing threat to the region of the Islamist insurgency in northern Mozambique.
This would be the first time that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) formally discusses the jihadist insurgency which is growing by the day.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa is to host a summit of the troika of the SADC’s organ on politics, defence and security, which is mandated to address security problems in the region.
Mnangagwa currently chairs the organ troika. The Zimbabwe foreign ministry announced on Monday that the other members of the troika, Zambian President Edgar Lungu; the outgoing troika chair, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi; and the incoming troika chair, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, would also attend the summit.
The ministry said the summit would consider “the urgent security situation in Mozambique following its formal request to the regional body”.
Though the insurgency is not mentioned by name, a South African official believes Tuesday’s summit is evidence that the Mozambique government is at last acknowledging the seriousness of the threat it poses not only to Mozambique, but to other countries in the region.
The official said South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, in particular, had been urging Mozambique for some time to agree to SADC putting the insurgency on its agenda. Until recently Maputo had been denying the nature of the insurgency, dismissing it as mere criminality.
But a surge in attacks by the insurgents over the past few months – in which they captured some important towns and raised the Islamic State flag over them – had made it impossible for Nyusi’s government to continue denying the problem, the South African official said.
He did not know what the summit was likely to decide in dealing with the insurgency. Mozambique recently hired a South Africa-based private military company Dyck Advisory Group (DAG) to help it fight the insurgency.
DAG has conducted several helicopter attacks on the insurgents, reportedly with considerable success, but its intervention has also raised concerns in Pretoria as South Africa has legislation which outlaws South African citizens or companies from providing military support to foreign interests without permission from the South African government.
Some security analysts believe that DAG – which is owned by former Zimbabwean military officer Lionel Dyck – might be using Zimbabwean ground troops in its operations against the insurgents. But most analysts seem to believe that if so, these fighters would be former soldiers and not current members of the Zimbabwe National Army.
The South African official said it was unlikely that Zimbabwe was officially involved in the fighting or would become involved as it simply didn’t have the money for any such operation because it was bankrupt.
An observer in Maputo said the main thing Nyusi wanted from the Tuesday meeting was for SADC to take the Cabo Delgado war seriously, and to regard Islamic State as a threat not just to Mozambique, but to the entire SADC region.
He added that Nyusi would probably also sound out military support from the region, including the possibility of air and naval support from South Africa to stop fresh supplies reaching the insurgents on the Cabo Delgado coast, or from across the Rovuma River, the border with Tanzania. Daily Maverick