Mozambique’s Response to Insurgency Perplexes Neighbors

Mozambique’s reticence to enlist the help of its neighbors to quash an Islamist insurgency runs counter to a regional assessment of how best to speedily halt the violence, South Africa’s state security minister said.

While the 16-nation Southern African Development Community is willing to intervene, Mozambique has yet to extend an invitation to the regional trading bloc to deploy troops, Ayanda Dlodlo said.

“We have been clear from day-one on what needs to be done,” Dlodlo said in an interview on Tuesday. “Mozambique is engaging a number of countries outside the SADC to seek assistance in quelling the insurgency in Mozambique, so that it does not spread to the rest of the region. SADC does however have the political and military will to intervene once invited.”

Mozambique’s military has so far failed to contain the jihadist group that’s pledged allegiance to Islamic State and claimed responsibility for attacks in the northern Cabo Delgado province, which have been growing in frequency, size and sophistication. The violence has claimed at least 2,838 lives and forced more than 700,000 from their homes.

President Filipe Nyusi has accepted foreign offers of intelligence co-operation and training for his troops, but shied away from direct military intervention on the grounds that his nation’s sovereignty could be compromised. A failure to halt the insurgency may jeopardize liquefied natural gas investments that are worth billions of dollars and have the potential to completely transform the southeast African nation’s economy, with Total SE already having put development of a $20 billion project on hold.

Most of the insurgents in Cabo Delgado are poor, young locals, but they have been joined by other nationals including Tanzanians, Ugandans and Congolese.

”There have been claims that there are South Africans that are part of the group of insurgencies in Mozambique,” Dlodlo said. “Word is that some are arrested. As South Africa we would like to be given access to those individuals to interview them together with our Mozambique counterparts.”

The minister expressed doubts that the insurgents had direct links with ISIS, and said South Africa was working with other intelligence agencies to ascertain who they were.

ISIS “claims responsibility for anything and everything,” Dlodlo said. “Sympathy is not necessarily association.”

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