Advance teams from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have arrived in Mozambique to support the battle against the Islamist terrorist groups, known locally as “Al-Shabaab”.
Colonel Omar Saranga, the Ministry’s spokesperson dismissed the news that the regional bloc’s full Standby Force, was already in the country.
The advance teams, he explained, are in Maputo and in Palma (a town in the province of Cabo Delgado), to prepare the deployment of the main force.
Saranga confirmed that General Xolani Mankayi, head of South Africa’s 43 Brigade, the rapid intervention unit of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), will command the SADC Full Standby Force. Mankayi is already in Mozambique, “and he has been received by the Defence Minister and by the Chief of Staff of the Mozambican Armed Forces. He has received a briefing on the situation”, Saranga said. Last August, the energy press speculated that General Manyi had instructed the 43 Brigade to begin an intensive training programme for possible action in Cabo Delgado if President Cyril Ramaphosa decides to intervene. “Questions of command have been outlined in the combined planning”, Saranga offered. “Right now, what is important to say is not who will command or cease to command. The troops will be led by their respective commands, but the chief coordinator is the Republic of Mozambique”.
Islamic insurgents have killed hundreds of people and turned thousands to refugees in towns and villages located in the province and close to the Afungi Peninsula, where the TOTALEnergies operated 13 Million Metric Tonnes Per Annum Liquefied Natural Gas project is sited.
In late March 2021, just when TOTALEnergies’ workers returned to site in Afungi to continue construction, Islamic insurgents made their most sweeping attack on the neighboring Palma town.
TOTALEnergies pulled out its workers after that attack and Mozambique has since been looking for a way to permanently root out renewed attacks. Part of the effort was to call on member countries of the Southern African Development Commission (SADC) to provide military assistance.
Saranga waved aside questions regarding combat operations of Rwandan troops who arrived in the week of July 12, 2021. The questions referenced report by the independent newssheet “Carta de Mocambique, that soldiers of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) left their base on the Afungi Peninsula to patrol a forested area close to the town of Palma. They reportedly found a terrorist group in the Quionga administrative post, retreating towards the Tanzanian border, engaged them and killed 30 terrorists. Saranga said that questions about Rwandan forces “are operational question and I can’t answer it. It’s the force commander who can answer. The enemy may be watching our actions to see what direction we are going to take”. But he volunteered that the SADC member states who will take part in the Standby Force are South Africa, Tanzania, Angola, and Botswana, “and we are confident that, during the operations, more countries may express an interest in supporting Mozambique”.
“The SADC heads of state summit, held in Maputo on 23 June, approved a mandate for the deployment of the Standby Force”, Col. Saranga told reporters. “The objective was to support the national efforts to fight against terrorism in Cabo Delgado. Following up this mandate, in late June there was a joint planning conference, and this event outlined the next steps that should be taken to deploy the force”.
“What is happening right now is the implementation of this plan”, he continued. “The mandate envisaged that the deployment of the force should happen as from 15 July. So from 15 July to now, activities have been undertaken in order to receive this force, which is rather substantial. Steps are being taken so that it can be received and carry out its work. That means there are advance teams that are working with our troops on the ground to receive the force.