Southern African countries on Wednesday approved the deployment of troops to help fight an Islamic State-linked insurgency in northern Mozambique.
The 16 Southern African Development Community (SADC) members, at the extra-ordinary summit held in the Mozambican capital Maputo, endorsed a plan to send a regional force to the Cabo Delgado province, the hotspot of the escalating terrorist attacks.
According to the communique, the “summit endorsed the recommendations of the chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and approved the mandate of the SADC Standby Force Mission to the Republic of Mozambique to be deployed in support of Mozambique to combat terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado”.
The communique did not elaborate on the timeliness for the deployment and the number of troops.
In April, after a deadly attack on the town of Palma, a SADC technical team that included military and intelligence chiefs from South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe recommended the deployment of 3,000 troops to Mozambique.
The Cabo Delgado insurgency has displaced over 800,000 people and is threatening gas projects by multinationals in the region.
Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi was said to be reluctant on having foreign boots on the ground and Wednesday’s resolution ended weeks of deliberations by regional leaders on how to tackle the threat of terrorism in the region.
The summit also “urged the member states, in collaboration with humanitarian agencies, to continue providing humanitarian support to the population affected by terrorist attacks, the Cabo Delgado, including the internally displaced persons”, the communique said.
Cabo Delgado has been under siege since 2017 from the Ansar al-Sunna group, known locally as Al-Shabaab — which is not linked to insurgents in Somalia going by the same name — but the conflict has intensified in recent months.
Mozambique’s neighbours fear that the terrorist attacks will spill over into their territories if not neutralised.
Countries such as Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania also face an influx of refugees fleeing the fighting.