South African countries deploy troops to fight Mozambican uprising

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South African countries on Wednesday approved the deployment of troops to Mozambique to help it fight an escalating Islamist insurgency that threatens stability in the relatively peaceful region.

The 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) is grappling with how to respond to the conflict, which is centered in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado. It started in October 2017 and thousands have died on all sides.

Nearly 800,000 people have been displaced and the fighting has brought a $20 billion natural gas project led by oil giant Total to a standstill.

SADC has agreed to deploy its standby force to “help Mozambique fight terrorism,” SADC Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax said, reading a communiqué after a meeting of bloc leaders in Maputo, the capital of the United States. Mozambique.

The standby force is part of a regional defense pact that allows for military intervention to prevent the spread of conflict.

The communiqué gave no details on how many troops would be involved, when they would be deployed or what their role would be, adding only that humanitarian aid should be channeled to those most in need.

The decision puts an end to months of consultation and disagreement within the bloc over what it takes to stop an insurgency that threatens to open southern Africa’s first jihadist front.

‘First step’

While some members, including South Africa, have pushed for military action, others have reportedly been more reluctant.

Mozambique’s president, Filipe Nyusi, has traditionally been resistant to foreign boots on the ground.

“This is only the first step towards a broader solution,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies

“This is the first time… the SADC standby force has engaged in a counter-terrorism operation that is not peacekeeping. It is a very complex situation,” she said, adding that the causes of the conflict must be addressed.

(REUTERS)