SOUTHERN African Development Community leaders gathered for an emergency meeting this week in Maputo, Mozambique, following a recent get-together in Gaborone, Botswana, to discuss the volatile political and security situation in that country’s gas-rich Cabo Delgado northern region.
The leaders agreed on Monday in Maputo to hold yet another emergency summit in January next year to discuss the conflict threatening not just Mozambique’s internal peace and stability, but also the whole region’s security, with Zimbabwe seriously vulnerable as most of its oil supplies come through the neighbouring country’s port of Beira.
Those who attended the meeting included Presidents Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana and Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa.
As former Rhodesian and Zimbabwean military veteran retired Colonel Lionel Dyck puts it in this article by Hannes Wessels, the stakes are very high in the conflict.
Wessels was born in 1956 in what was then Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), but grew up in Umtali (now Mutare) on the Mozambique border. As a young boy he met Robert Ruark on safari in Mozambique and was later captivated by his books.
He wrote this article after visiting Mozambique in recent months where he spoke Dyck who is holding fort while Sadc leaders are gathering an intervention force to take on the well-organised and well-equipped Islamic militants fighting to establish a caliphate in the region endowed with gas abundance.
With the world convulsed by the hysteria generated by the Black Lives Matter movement, I came away from my recent meeting with Colonel Lionel Dyck mulling the prevailing madness.
Something wildly ironic about a white, former Rhodesian, then Zimbabwean army officer, talking in sombre but selfless terms about the risks that lie ahead of him in trying to quell a growing and increasingly brutal insurrection that is wreaking havoc through Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique.
Here Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah, which is an ISIS (Islamic State) offshoot, seeking to establish a caliphate in the province, is at the heart of the mayhem where blacks are killing blacks in grisly fashion with increasing abandon and it looks like he is the man with the finger of fate pointed firmly at him if this conflagration is going to be confronted, contained and defeated.
“The stakes are extremely high,” says Dyck, “but the Mozambique Defence Forces are unprepared and under-resourced and we have to move fast. Some of the atrocities committed are unlike anything I have seen before and I’ve seen a lot of wars, in a lot of different places. The massacre that followed the attack on Quissanga Police Post involved the mutilation of bodies, severing of limbs and we believe the attackers ate some of the body-parts. Despite this barbarism, this enemy is organised, motivated and well equipped. If we don’t get on top of this, it’s going to spread south fast and that will be a catastrophe for the entire region.”
After Independence in 1980, Dyck stayed on in the new Zimbabwean army and took command of the Zimbabwe Parachute Battalion which was a mix of former RAR (Rhodesian African Rifles), Selous Scouts and former adversaries from the Zanla and Zpra guerrilla armies.
No easy task to mould different tribes and allegiances into an effective fighting unit in the wake of a bitter war but he pulled it off and moulded the new country’s most potent fighting force.
Controversially, he led these men in a hard-fought campaign against Renamo rebels in central Mozambique, which earned him the respect and trust of the Frelimo administration and it is for this reason, the Nyusi administration has turned to him for help in the current time of need.
Seven years ago, with poaching rampant in parts of southern Mozambique, his Dyck Advisory Group (DAG) was hired by the authorities to tackle the problem. Using a mix of experienced game-scouts and former special forces personnel, he accepted.
Working in many cases with tracker dogs and with air support, he and his men proved highly successful and it was on the back of this that he was approached by the Mozambique police chief in September last year and asked to assist in dealing with the burgeoning insurrection unfolding in Cabo Delgado.
“We have discovered it’s a nasty mix of old, well-organised, criminal networks involved in ivory, rubies and emeralds but the big, billion-dollar business is heroin being moved through the area and distributed north and south. This has now taken on an Islamic face and it’s a highly effective combination with strong external support.”
Dyck is operating on a shoe-string. With one helicopter having been shot down and destroyed, he has two Gazelle gunships flying, two “Bathawk” microlights with front-guns, an old Allouette helicopter harmed with 20-millimetre canon and two fixed wing aircraft.
With a total compliment of less than 30 men, he has almost no ground-forces and his intelligence gathering capability is very limited.
“At the moment our strike capability is almost entirely airborne,” he says.
“We have attacked enemy camps from the air and we are using aircraft to interdict their supplies which are being moved on land and sea. I believe we have been successful in slowing their advance but this war is far from won. We have to start a selection and training programme immediately so we can get good men into the field and take the fight back to the enemy from the air and on the ground. We also intend to move our base of operations closer to Mocimboa da Praia which was attacked recently by the rebels.”
Muddying the waters is dissension within the Sadc region with different members holding different opinions and having different agendas.
Tanzania, with a large Muslim population, it appears, is at best neutral but the central government appears to be doing nothing to stop the flow of insurgents into Mozambique from bases in the south of the country.
Hope for support from Zimbabwe has not been forthcoming and South Africa appears to prefer to remain above the fray. Zimbabwe, given its dire economic situation, may not have the resources to intervene and South Africa appears to have taken note of a warning from Al Sunnah, that they intervene at the risk of a backlash that may well come from dormant, but potentially dangerous Islamic groups inside the country.
Further afield, the Americans appear to be watching from the sidelines. Undoubtedly they have the capacity to intervene, but it appears the Nyusi administration is wary of soliciting their help. This may be because they are unsure of what the quid pro quo will be but it may also have something to do with the conflict of interest US troops in Africa face.
Most of the Islamic insurrections in west and central Africa appear to be Saudi financed and supported. Saudi Arabia remains an American and Israeli ally in containing Iran and in dealing with other Middle-East hotspots and this seems to have compromised their goals in containing the Islamic contagion.
Dyck has been approached by influential figures in the British “establishment” offering assistance but he is wary. “I just don’t trust them; they never tell you the whole story and there is always another agenda in play with them. I feel we must go it alone at this stage with the little we have and turn this around. It’s going to be hard but we have to win this.”
At this point it looks like a semi-retired 76-year-old veteran of many wars, in the twilight of his years, stands pretty much alone in the ongoing struggle to stem the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and to stop the slaughter of blacks by blacks on the killing fields of Africa. And because the “good guy” has a white face and there are no white American cops involved, the media appears to have little interest.