SADC and Rwanda shouldn’t go it alone in Mozambique

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Troops from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have achieved some important results in northern Mozambique, where an insurgency has been ongoing since the end of 2017. Some roads have been reopened, and a semblance of calm has returned in key locations for liquefied natural gas projects, such as Palma and Mocímboa da Praia.

However, there are still attacks across the Cabo Delgado province, and the United Nations Refugee Agency has said it would be premature to encourage displaced people to return to their homes.

To resolve the crisis, a joint vision for long-term stability is needed that includes all the forces in Mozambique. Currently, around 2 000 Rwandan troops are securing the Palma and Mocímboa districts, which are gas project sites (see map). SADC’s Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) is based in three other districts, with Mozambican forces responsible for the rest of the province.

The SADC deployment is noted in official African Union (AU) documents as part of the AU’s African Standby Force. But so far there’s been little communication between SADC and the AU in this regard.

The southern African bloc has only recently approached the AU – six months after the Mozambican deployment and when funds started running out. In doing so, SADC set aside its historical mistrust of the AU and its insistence on the principle of subsidiarity – which means, in this case, that SADC leads on security issues.

SADC has also had no high-level discussions with Rwanda about its presence in Cabo Delgado. Rwanda believes that rooting out terrorism in the province is vital for its own security. Tensions between SADC and Rwanda date back to differences over election results in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in early 2019. Despite overtures by President Paul Kagame to key SADC countries, concerns persist.

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