Sadc force welcome, but we lead: President Filipe Nyusi

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WHILE the Sadc double troika emergency summit in Maputo yesterday agreed to “an immediate technical deployment” and mandated security ministers as well as defence chiefs to work out details of an urgent intervention road map, what is happening behind the scenes and the subtext, the underlying issues and theme – sovereignty – matters the most.


As Sadc leaders moved to deploy troops to contain the raging Islamist insurgency in Cabo Delgado through an urgent technical approach, the issue of Mozambican sovereignty looms large in the background.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi made it loud and clear for the first time in public, the day before the summit, that the primary responsibility to fight the jihadist insurgents is for Mozambicans, with allies coming in to help under the direction of the host country.

During the opening and closing remarks at the summit yesterday, Nyusi was also clear and forthright about the issue. He brandished the sovereignty card, leaving Sadc leaders no longer in doubt about what he thought their role was and should be in the crisis.

All along since the conflict broke out in 2017 before escalating last year and of late, there were murmurs of discomfort and anxiety within Sadc’s corridors of power and regional diplomatic circles that Nyusi was resisting intervention as he wanted to first put his house in order and define the parameters for intervention.

Informed security sources told The NewsHawks that Nyusi was reluctant to allow a Sadc intervention at first because he feared a regionalised intervention and resultant regional conflict would make things worse.

“Nyusi has been deliberate and careful about the need for foreign intervention in the Mozambican conflict because he thinks in the short term his government must avoid allowing the presence of foreign armies under the guise of regional politics, protecting investment and simply fighting terrorism as that might have the unintended consequences of inviting foreign insurgents, regionalising the conflict and aggravating the situation,” a security source said.

“The African Union (AU) shares this view. There are many examples in Africa of this. Look at Mali and the chaos that foreign troops brought there. I was reading a recent AU report over the Palma attack and they raise these issues.

“Nyusi shares these views, hence his calculated and strong nationalist approach emphasising sovereignty and Mozambicans’ primary responsibility to fight the insurgents on their own before getting foreign help.”

Yesterday, Nyusi agreed to a limited Sadc intervention, but still insisting on sovereignty and Mozambicans’ primary responsibility to fight the militants.

This time he was open and direct about it; first on Wednesday during a Women’s Day commemoration event and then yesterday at the opening and closing ceremonies of the summit in Maputo.

In his closing remarks at the summit yesterday, Nyusi thanked Sadc leaders for their solidarity and for eventually coming up with an action plan, but still emphasised “we have a shared responsibility, primarily as a country and (then) Sadc, without ever declining or minimising the support of other bilateral and multilateral partners”.

During his opening statement, he had also touched on the same issue.

“Our cooperation must not neglect the responsibility and competence of each country in combating terrorism and other security threats, as the defence of each country is the primary responsibility of that respective country,” he said.

In a nuanced and delicate message on Wednesday before the summit, Nyusi had said Sadc and other foreign forces are welcome, but Mozambique takes the lead.

He said Mozambicans have experienced war before and can fight on their own, although help is always welcome since terrorism is not just a national problem, but also a regional and global scourge. Sadc, he said, is the appropriate regional body to help.

Nyusi also suggested that people need to be calculating, measured and patient in how they deal with the jihadist insurgency issues which cannot be resolved overnight given the multi-dimensions and complexities of compounded terrorism issues.

The Sadc communiqué bears testimony to the limited and measured space for foreign intervention which Nyusi is prepared to give in Mozambique.

As a result, the Sadc meeting emerged clear on these issues.

Apart from Mozambique, the other Sadc troika members who attended the meeting were incoming chair Malawi and outgoing chair Tanzania. Malawi was represented by President Lazarus Chakwera and Tanzania by President Hussein Ali Mwinyi of Zanzibar, standing in for President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the outgoing Sadc chairperson.

The Sadc troika of the organ on politics, defence and security cooperation was represented by its chairperson, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, incoming chair South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and outgoing chair Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Also in attendance was Sadc executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax.

After the meeting, the double troika issued a statement, noting Sadc for the first time will move to do something, albeit more technical rather than direct military intervention, through its standby brigade.

The Sadc Brigade supports regional peace operations under the African Standby Force Policy Framework. The brigade, launched in August 2008, is made up of military, police and civilian members from Sadc member states.

It intervenes for peace and security restoration in member states.

“Double troika summit received a report from the organ troika on the security situation in Mozambique, and noted with concern, the acts of terrorism perpetrated against innocent civilians, women and children in some of the districts of Cabo Delgado Province of the Republic of Mozambique; condemned the terrorist attacks in strongest terms; and affirmed that such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response,” it reads.

“Double troika summit expressed Sadc’s full solidarity with the government and people of the Republic of Mozambique, and reaffirmed Sadc’s continued commitment to contribute towards the efforts to bring about lasting peace and security, as well as reconciliation and development in the Republic of Mozambique.

“Double troika summit directed an immediate Sadc organ technical deployment to the Republic of Mozambique, and the convening of an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ by 28 April 2021 that will report to the Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit to be held in the Republic of Mozambique, on 29 April 2021.”

A day before Sadc leaders arrived in Maputo for the meeting, Nyusi had made his point crystal clear on how he viewed the summit coming the following day, Mozambicans’ role in the conflict and foreign intervention.

The issue of sovereignty and Mozambicans’ primary responsibility to fight the insurgency loomed large in his address to the Women’s Day gathering on 7 April.

Addressing the nation on Women’s Day, Nyusi spoke at length about the Cabo Delgado crisis in his speech. In fact, his speech turned out to be more about the Sadc meeting yesterday and the Islamist insurgency than women issues.

Nyusi said Mozambique will stand up and fight the insurgency on its own, even though foreign intervention is welcome.

He said while Maputo would need regional and international assistance, it was their job to fight.

Nyusi said although Mozambique needed bilateral and multilateral support given that the insurgents were trained and funded from outside, and considering the war against terrorism was global, in the end Mozambique will have to take the lead. It cannot outsource its sovereignty and its security responsibilities.

“The terrorist brutality forced hundreds of people, including men, women and children, to seek immediate refuge in the bush areas of the headquarters town of Palma district and in Afunge. In those days filled with drama and heroism, these people faced the brutal loss of their loved ones. To escape from death, entire families threw themselves into the bush with their small children and undertook long journeys whose only certainty was fear, thirst and hunger,” he said.

“The aggression inflicted on us by the terrorists is against Mozambique. It is against all of us Mozambicans. Terrorism is always an aggression against the whole mankind.”

Nyusi’s address emphasised on Mozambique’s sovereignty, mobilisation of the country’s defence forces and the population, further revealing his game plan before allowing regional intervention.

“We have given instructions for the population to have as much support as possible. And we have instructed the Defence and Security Forces to proceed, without much fanfare or proclamation, with operations in the town of Palma, with a view to fully re-establishing Order,
Security and Tranquillity. You already know what happened next, because the appropriate bodies have released it to the public without reservation,” he said.

Nyusi also said that the country’s defence forces, which need more training and equipping, were gaining ground against insurgents.

“The success we have achieved has not only happened in Palma. Once again, we do not intend to claim victory because we are aware that we are fighting against terrorism. We are facing a war without barracks, but in this battle, we reaffirm the conviction that, if we stand together, we can win,” Nyusi said.

“Our government has already expressed to the international community its needs to fight terrorism. This bilateral and/or multilateral support is being assessed, and we know where we need help. And what is our responsibility, as Mozambicans. Those arriving from abroad will not come to replace us. They shall come to support us. This is not a matter of empty pride. This is about a sense of sovereignty; it is about knowing that no war is won if it is not clear from the outset what is to be done by one’s own country and what is to be done by the allies.

“As a government we are aware of how serious this situation is. We know the field; we often visit the combatants on the frontline. We are not commanding in a remote and distant way. It was not by chance that our armed forces quickly restored normality in Palma. And we need to emphasise the following: we are overcoming a condition arising from decades without solid investments on the defence and security sector.

“We have been engaging with our bilateral and multilateral partners in order to view terrorism as a global enemy that ought to be fought in a concerted manner. At our regional level, in the coming days, we will again pool our experiences to form a united front to prevent and combat terrorism.”

Source: News Hawks