Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have reportedly expressed unease at a suggestion to have Rwandan troops deployed in Mozambique.
At Troika Summit on Thursday last week in Mozambique, President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi’s colleagues pushed back at the idea of having Rwanda attend SADC summits in preparation for planned deployment of troops.
Mozambique is battling Islamist insurgency in the northern region, which is rich in minerals and oil. More than 2,800 people have been killed and thousands forced out of their homes and villages.
Since last year, SADC has been working on a plan to deploy regional troops to end the insurgency.
However, it emerged at end of April following impromptu visit of the Mozambican leader Nyusi to Rwanda for meeting with Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, that Rwandan troops could be deployed there.
Rwanda had put together a bilateral agreement with Mozambique which included Rwandan troops on the ground.
The SADC summit on Thursday was attended by host Mozambique’s Nyusi, Malawi President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, Botswana President Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, Zimbabwe President Dr Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanzibar’s Hussein Ali Mwinyi.
As the summit was being prepared weeks before, Mozambique’s Nyusa had proposed that Rwanda be allowed to attend, an idea which was dismissed.
The defense for Rwanda’s troop deployment was that it had experience in battling insurgencies including the stabilisation of Central African Republic (CAR).
Inside the summit’s closed doors, President’s Nyusi’s counterparts reportedly told him that if Rwanda wanted to help Mozambique, it had to go through SADC structures.
As Rwanda has expressed willingness to go into Mozambique, others global players are eyeing the region too; Portugal, the United States and France.
Before the French President Emmanuel Macron came to Rwanda last week, Kagame was in Paris for another separate event on Africa. Kagame met Macron in Paris, as well as South Africa’s Ramaphosa.
It is emerging that Mozambique’s President Nyusi, who was also in Paris, met with President Emmanuel Macron of France, while his Defence Minister Jaime Neto travelled to Lisbon to meet his Portuguese counterpart Joao Cravinho.
Last week, before the SADC Summit, South African International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor announced that whichever country wanted to get involved in Mozambique, had to go through SADC.
“At the G7 meeting, I had the opportunity to meet France, the EU and the United States secretary of state and I made it clear to them that our view is SADC must lead on this matter,” Pandor said in interview with News24.
“There appeared to be some agreement but I see there are some countries that are already entered into bilateral agreements with Mozambique but our view is that SADC should be the lead.”
She added: “What is fortunate is that all the countries that have been speaking to Mozambique have also been speaking to South Africa. So we’ve been able to say to Portugal, we think let’s work in concert rather than finding ourselves tripping over each other should troops from SADC come in”.
SADC plans to mobilise a standby force of at least 3,000 troops when they are deployed in Mozambique.
In addition, a leaked report from the SADC Double Troika Plus Angola Technical Assessment Mission, proposed a deployment of nearly 150 special forces, who will “conduct targeted operations” and secure the coast of the Mozambican channel.
The leaked SADC report also called for equipment, including six helicopters, four transport aircraft, two maritime surveillance and two drones.
South Africa may have to redeploy troops from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, but troops from Angola and Zimbabwe may be sooner prepared to join the force.
What now remains is whether Rwanda will accept to send its troops, if indeed they are allowed, to be commanded by SADC. Yet, Rwanda isn’t member of the bloc.
South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania have troops just near Rwanda’s border in DRC as part of UN’s Force Intervention Brigade which helped end the M23 rebel force which was accused of being backed by Rwanda. It has denied the allegation.
SADC members include 16 member states: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Burundi has applied to join and its application is backed by Tanzania, a key SADC member.