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THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states will fund their own military operations in Mozambique in what is increasingly becoming the region’s biggest war of the last two decades.
This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba has hinted that his Government might have already deployed troops but would have no time for media photo shoots.
The regional body’s member states are joining on the side of Mozambique Government forces to thwart and drive out Jihadist insurgents coming in from the northern border with Tanzania, who have already disrupted oil drilling operations and brutally murdered citizens since their incursions some years ago.
Writing on Twitter on Wednesday, Charamba said: “Don’t expect images of our men and women in (military) fatigues. It is not the tradition of ZDF (Zimbabwe Defence Forces) to deploy in the full glare of the media. We know well enough what’s never done ahead or during operations. I am just saying zvangu!”
The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) will be joining a SADC Standby Force consisting of more than 800 soldiers from different countries in the region.
To date, only South Africa and Botswana had openly deployed forces. While SADC agreed with Mozambique to send in forces to support their ally, deployment by member states has been slow and uncoordinated, but Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi this week gave a hint why that was the case.
Masisi, as SADC’s politics, defence and security chair, has been shuttling between Maputo, Gaborone and other regional capitals rallying support for regional intervention to stop the Islamic State-linked insurgency.
Sending off the his 260 troops Monday morning at Sir Seretse Khama Airport, Masisi revealed that each SADC member contributing troops to the battle would pay its own costs, together with assistance from the SADC Secretariat.
“Your deployment comes at a time when the country is facing economic challenges which have been exacerbated to a great extent by the COVID-19 Pandemic which is inflicting enormous health, economic, and social damage to all nations,” he said.
“Notwithstanding the foregoing, my government through the Reset Initiative is working tirelessly to reinvigorate the local economy and will be sourcing some of the services for the mission locally.”
Masisi also added that the terrorists were expected to use asymmetric and unconventional warfare to pursue their goals, but soldiers were expected to remain professional.
“As professionals, you stand for much more than they do and must avoid emulating them and sinking to their level,” he told the troops.
“I therefore demand nothing less from you to observe the Laws of Armed Conflict as prescribed internationally in your profession of arms, as well as the Status of Force Agreement which establishes the framework under which the SADC Mission in Mozambique personnel will operate in Mozambique.”
Rwanda, which is not a SADC member, already has 1,000 soldiers in the east African country, having secured a bilateral arrangement to deploy with Mozambique. In addition, Western countries have contributed military support to stem the conflict.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, the opposition The DA has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to come clean on the deployment of South African soldiers to Mozambique’s violence-stricken Cabo Delgado region.
The DA says its sources have told them that 1 495 soldiers had been deployed to the oil-rich region as part of the SADC Standby Force last Monday.
Reports in Mozambique say SADC intends to establish a base in Maputo, from where it can direct operations in northern Mozambique. Maputo is around 1,900 km from the epicentre of the insurgency.
SADC had hoped to deploy its forces on July 15. However, the Mozambique government delayed signing the document giving this move legal authority. South Africa has denied tensions with Mozambique were the reason for delays while other reports say SADC member states haggled among themselves over which nation would command the entire SADC force.
Initial reports said Botswana was to provide a Commander to be deputized by South Africa, but other nations reportedly protested. Most SADC discussions over the matter were closed to the media, leaving wide room for speculation.
Mozambique arrested a group of South Africans, and shot down a drone, early in July. The South Africans were spies, according to reports. They were trying to access information on Mozambique’s counter insurgency efforts in Cabo Delgado. ■