Southern African countries have agreed to extend their troop deployment in Mozambique for another month to help it fight an Islamic State-linked insurgency. The mission’s mandate was set to end last Friday but has been extended on an interim basis until the Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state summit in mid-August when a more detailed report on the mission’s progress will be considered.
Closing a virtual summit on 14 July, SADC chairperson and Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera said the extension of the troop deployment prevented the mission from being compromised. Separately, the European Union’s diplomatic mission to Mozambique said the EU would provide the country’s army with an additional 45 million euros ($45 million) of financial support. Mozambique’s military had been losing ground to the insurgency until it accepted help from SADC and Rwanda, which had also sent soldiers.
Mozambique is one of a few African countries currently being terraformed in the crucible of violent geopolitics. An internationally sponsored jihadist insurgency is confronting with an African-led, quasi-European sponsored ‘coalition of the concerned’ in a little reported fight to the death over ideology and natural resources.
This deployment extension will be the second since January 2022, and is likely to be critical in defeating the insurgents in the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province. At stake is the reputation of a number of regional and international actors, from France to South Africa, and Rwanda to the African Union (AU). However, in order to make what little gains from the current deployment durable, it will be important to coordinate the activities of SADC’s mission in Mozambique with those of Rwandan troops that are also active in the province.
To date, the SADC has not had any high-level discussions with Rwanda, which has about 2000 troops deployed (with French financial and logistical assistance) in two out of Cabo Delgado’s 14 districts, including Pemba where a mammoth gas processing facility operated by Total resides. There also needs to be more coordination between the SADC and the AU – while the AU considers SANIM as one of the first deployments of its African Standby Force, the historical mistrust that the SADC has for the AU meant that the SADC only sought AU support when it needed funding to extend the mission’s mandate beyond the first six months.
More European support for the war against the insurgents is a reasonable expectation, especially as European countries continue the global hunt for new and reliable gas suppliers to reduce their problematic dependence on Russia. This, in the final assessment, is why a conflict in a remote corner of southern Africa, largely because of another conflict a continent away, matters.
For Kigali, it is about burnishing its international credentials as a ready interventionist hand; for Pretoria and friends, the reassurance that their neck of the woods is excluded from the expansionist ambitions of global jihadism; and for Berlin and Paris, resource access at a time when it is no longer an option but a necessity. The government in Maputo may be inclined to bask in this not-so-newfound attention – the legacies of decades of civil war still resonate in a deeply wounded country. It would be an unwise choice.