Malawi hosts Sadc meets over Mozambique insurgency

Calbo delgado rebels

The first Southern African Development Community (SADC) Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the year that was due to be held last week, with Mozambique’s insurgency its main focus, will be held from today.

The summit, to review progress of the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), was due to be held virtually from 5 to 7 January, according to the SADC, but was rescheduled. The meetings will now take place in Lilongwe, Malawi, from 11 to 12 January.

Malawi's President and Sadc chairperson Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera will lead the Extraordinary Summit.

Prior to the Extraordinary Summit, Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa and Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation will, on 11 January convene an Extraordinary SADC Organ Troika Summit, comprising Heads of State and Government from Organ Troika members (Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa).

A previous meeting on the summit

In accordance with the SADC Treaty, the SADC Summit is responsible for the overall policy direction and control of functions of the community, ultimately making it the policy-making institution of SADC.

A key issue on the table is “support for effective operation of SAMIM objectives to bring peace and stability in Cabo Delgado”.

SAMIM was deployed to Mozambique mid-last year as the major component of a regional effort to dislodge Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASWJ) insurgents, called “terrorists” in official SAMIM military communiques, from Cabo Delgado province.

South African International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor last month told a media briefing SAMIM’s mandate to continue offensive operations against terrorists and violent extremists was extended without providing a timeline.

Eight SADC countries – Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia – currently have troops and other military personnel detached to the mission. While not part of SADC, Rwanda has a thousand troops assisting FADM (Forças Armadas de Defesa de Moçambique) in ongoing efforts to oust ASWJ from northern Mozambique.

Cabo Delgado has long counted amongst Mozambique’s most marginalised provinces, possessing high levels of youth unemployment, weak state capacity and the lowest per capita incomes of all the country’s regions. Given the region’s rich natural resources (notably timber and gemstones), porous borders with Tanzania and lack of state investment in creating viable economic opportunities, Cabo Delgado stands at the centre of a thriving illicit borderland economy which many local citizens depend upon for subsistence. Furthermore, Cabo Delgado’s predominantly Muslim Mwani minority has long harboured latent ethnic grievances against the Catholic Makonde due to perceptions of preferential treatment regarding scarce public sector employment opportunities. In keeping with the remote northern region’s historically marginalised status, Cabo Delgado has traditionally acted as a hub of resistance against state control, representing a major redoubt for  Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO) guerrillas during the Mozambiquan civil war in the 1970s.