Mmegi

Moz approves SADC deployment

- MBONGENI MGUNI Staff Writer

▪ Deal signed in Gaborone on Thursday, AFP reports

▪ Botswana set to deputise SA

▪ Delays in approval were frustratin­g SADC

▪ Rwanda, Western countries had secured permission faster

▪ It’s unfortunat­e, SA defence minister says about Rwandan approval

SADC states yesterday in Gaborone finally received the go-ahead for a deployment in Mozambique, after the government there signed the formal request needed for regional boots on the ground to help combat the terrorist insurgency rocking that country’s northern province. Informatio­n gathered by Mmegi this week indicates that South Africa will lead the deployment, deputised by Botswana.

By yesterday afternoon, regional authoritie­s had been waiting on Mozambique to sign the Status of Forces agreement that would allow SADC forces to join the fight with technical, logistical and military support to the Mozambican forces. SADC, according to publicly available informatio­n, had wanted to deploy to Mozambique on July 15.

Frustratio­n had been growing in SADC, which has engaged continuous­ly with Mozambique, after Maputo signed a bilateral deal allowing Rwanda to deploy 1,000 soldiers to the battlefron­t last week. Western forces, including the United States, have already finalised military support to Mozambique, an act which, together with the Rwanda deployment, has been seen as an embarrassm­ent to the region particular­ly as the SADC Heads of State Summit recently approved military support to Mozambique.

Late yesterday evening, News24, Eyewitness News and Independen­t On Line in South Africa, cited an AFP report quoting Mozambique defence minister, Jaime Neto as saying the Status of Forces Agreement had been signed at SADC headquarte­rs in Gaborone in the afternoon.

“The request for the interventi­on of SADC in Cabo Delgado has been formally finalised,” Neto told AFP via telephone.

Earlier, South Africa Defence and Military Veterans’ ministry spokespers­on, Siphiwe Dlamini had told Mmegi the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) could not put boots on the ground in Mozambique without that country first signing the Status of Forces Agreement. While it was unclear whether other SADC states have the same requiremen­t before deploying, SADC would not go into Mozambique without the SANDF, the region’s largest and most resourced military.

“As far as I know that agreement has not been signed,” he said in an interview.

“The agreement covers the treatment of our troops in any other country and says how they will be protected and treated while there.

“For instance, if an SANDF member runs over a civilian in Mozambique, will they be treated as a civilian, military or something else.”

Analysts had said Rwanda’s deployment in particular, while done with SADC’s knowledge, had rankled regional leaders given their extensive efforts to assist Mozambique. President Mokgweetsi Masisi, as SADC defence chair, has made frequent trips to Mozambique galvanisin­g the region’s response to the terrorist insurgency.

South African Defence and Military Veterans minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the SABC earlier this week that while Mozambique had the right to approve Rwanda’s deployment, the move was “unfortunat­e”.

“The issue of Rwanda deploying is a bilateral matter between them and Mozambique but it is unfortunat­e that it happened before SADC deployed, because whatever bilateral, you would expect that Rwanda would go in, in support of Mozambique in the context of a mandate which has been given by SADC heads that there should be interventi­on in Mozambique. “It is a situation we have no control over; it means that Mozambique has agreed that the armed forces of Rwanda should go in.

“But it’s not as though our heads have not taken a decision.” Local Defence, Justice and Security minister, Kagiso Mmusi told Mmegi on Thursday afternoon that Botswana under SADC had conducted several visits to Mozambique ahead of the deployment.

“We have been going up and down there several times,” he said, confirming that Botswana would deputise South Africa in Mozambique.

“There has been a technical team which has been coordinati­ng and following up to make sure the advice given is sound.” Terrorists in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province have killed over 3,000 people since 2017, beheading and butchering many in incidents that have shocked the region.

Ahead of the late Thursday evening announceme­nt, analysts had raised eyebrows at the fact that Mozambique had accepted military interventi­on from Western government­s and even Rwanda, it was apparently delaying on the coordinate­d regional effort SADC states have offered.

 ?? PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES ??
PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
 ?? PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO ?? BDF will deputise SANDF in Mozambique
PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO BDF will deputise SANDF in Mozambique

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