South Africa Perplexed Over Inertia in Mozambique Crisis

South African Foreign Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor expressed frustration over the region’s failure to help Mozambique contain an escalating Islamist insurgency.

The Southern African Development Community was due to hold a special summit this week in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, to discuss its response to the insurgency, which has caused more than half a million people to flee their homes in the north of the country. The militants are also encroaching on a $20 billion natural gas project Total SE is building. The summit was canceled due to a resurgence of coronavirus cases.

“The situation in Mozambique and our ability as SADC to arrive at an agreement as to what form of support we might provide remains a very worrying puzzle to us,” Pandor said in a webinar Wednesday. “We have made every effort to reach out to the government of Mozambique and to sit with them to decide a support agenda.”

President Filipe Nyusi’s government has so far resisted outside help to end the conflict in Cabo Delgado province that started in 2017, relying on mercenaries instead.

“Thus far, we’ve not succeeded in concretizing exactly the nature of support we should give to the government,” said Pandor. “Either through the police service, intelligence, or indeed our defense force.”

‘Humanitarian Catastrophe’

Mozambique has engaged with SADC about the insurgency since May 2019 and has communicated the help it needs, Manuel Gonçalves, deputy minister of foreign affairs, said in an interview Thursday.

“We will continue to work with the region,” he said.

The violence escalated last year, with the militants seizing a port town in August. Attacks near Total’s site prompted the French company to temporarily halt the project and evacuate staff in January.

The number of displaced is “skyrocketing” and about 1.6 million people need assistance, Myrta Kaulard, the United Nations resident coordinator in Maputo, told reporters Wednesday. The UN urgently needs $254 million to ramp up aid to “avoid a humanitarian catastrophe,” according to Valentin Tapsoba, the UN Refugee Agency’s southern Africa director.

European Union officials are visiting Mozambique this week to discuss possible assistance.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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