Southern Africa: Regional Power SADC Must Intervene to Halt Beheadings And Other Crimes In Mozambique Insurgency


Mozambique President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi is also SADC chairman. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.


The tense security situation in the northern Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique is a cause for concern not only to that country but to Zimbabwe and the entire SADC region. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is the powerful regional body that embraces 16 nations. 

Since November 2017 violent extremists have carried out brutal attacks on villagers in the Cabo Delgado province, threatening the peace agreement that was hammered between the ruling Frelimo government and Renamo rebel group in 1992. Reports from the northern province are quite worrying for land-locked Zimbabwe which also suffered greatly in terms of resources and loss of lives in defense of its gateway to the sea. 

The Zimbabwe government has also expressed its concerns about the deteriorating security situation in the north of Mozambique. The reasons for the worry are real. It is increasingly becoming clear that Mozambique’s instability is no longer limited to the long—established conflict between the government, largely made up of Frelimo and Renamo as the country faces other multifarious challenges related to violent extremism. 

The Islamic militia group has aggravated the situation and has since gained traction in northern Mozambique, threatening the liquefied natural gas finds in Cabo Delgado province. Mozambique is expecting to rake in billions of dollars for the gas investment there over the years. Zimbabwe and most other countries in the region can also benefit in various ways through spin-offs from the investments. 

Zimbabwe, SADC, the AU and the international community have an important role to play in supporting peace in the country. A reversal of the gains made through years of dialogue between Renamo and the ruling party in Mozambique will be a setback for the continent’s Roadmap to Silencing the Guns. Memories of the brutal conflict between Frelimo and Renamo, which ended in 1992, are still fresh in our minds. 

We still remember the tens of thousands of people who died, the millions displaced by the war, as well as the damage to infrastructure brought by the conflict. The peace that has held since 1992 must be maintained at all cost. Zimbabwe needs to speak out vociferously about the need for measures that will ensure the longevity of the 1992 peace agreement. 

The calls by Defense and War Veteran Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri for collective and urgent action by SADC to help Mozambique deal with the deteriorating security and terror attacks in the north of the country, are welcome. “Our region is under serious threat from acts of terrorism and other forms of non-traditional threats which need sophisticated strategies to overcome. In this regard, our government is deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Mozambique, which is threatening peace and development in the region,” she said. The minister spoke out strongly about the risk of the conflict and the likely impact of it to Zimbabwe, a that largely relies on Mozambique as its gateway to the sea. 

Zimbabwe and the rest of the SADC countries need to take collective action to quickly end the conflict and prevent it from spiraling out of control. In order for Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the entire SADC region to make the most out of the natural resources and the expected economic activity resulting from it, political stability will be key. The region, supported by the international community, must re-commit to the peace process that was made in 1992 and has largely helped to maintain peace and stability. 

Mozambique still needs support for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of rebels and other emerging terrorist outfits. The tales from Cabo Delgado are gory and scary. More than 50 people were beheaded by militant Islamists early this month. The militants reportedly turned a soccer pitch in a village into an “execution ground,” where they decapitated people and chopped bodies. 

Scores of people have been beheaded in other villages in that province. The gruesome attacks beg for immediate SADC action. Media reports indicate that more than 2, 000 people have been killed and about 430,000 have been left homeless in this conflict in which the militants are linked to the Islamic State (IS) group, seeking to gain a foothold in southern Africa. 

The Mozambican government has already appealed for international help to curb the insurgency. SADC countries should do all they can to support the Mozambican troops battling to restore peace and stability in the Cabo Delgado province. Apart from military support, the provision of humanitarian aid to the displaced people due to the conflict is also vital. 

Displaced people face shortages of food supplies, medicines and poor sanitation. In addition, most camps now face the threat of a major outbreak of cholera and other water-borne diseases. Displacement and movement of refugees has a potential to be felt by four countries—Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia—particularly in parts of the area which intersects with Mozambique. 

The insurgency would not have grown to this level—characterized by mass beheadings and gruesome murders—had there been a quick and robust regional response. The longer it takes for the SADC region to organize a robust and effective response to contain these insurgents, the more difficult it will become to end the conflict. 

The insurgents are keen to spread their influence in the region and collective action is vital in curbing the infiltration of the insurgents into the whole region. Up to now, SADC and its individual member states have noted the insurgency as “worrying” but have largely left it to the Mozambican government to deal with its own internal problem. 

Columnist Sifelani Tsiko is a veteran journalist based in Harare. He can be reached via [email protected] 

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