One of the aspirations of the Sadc Protocol on defense and security is to ensure peace in the region. From 2017, the Cabo Delgado Province in northern Mozambique has been under the jihadist insurgency which has been targeting locals and strategic infrastructure like petroleum sites. This state of insecurity has gotten SADC on the wheels and Malawi has independently deployed her military troops to the province to help stabilize the situation. Tamanda MATEBULE tells a story of how integration of military services at regional levels has helped stabilize the province.
From 2017 the northern province of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique has faced fierce jihadist insurgence whilst solo efforts by national security agencies struggled to stop these attacks.
So ruthless they’ve been; ransacking villages and cutting off roads and attacking a major gas and oil plant igniting regional forces into countering the Islamic State aligned militants.
Hence for Malawi, the SADC protocol on defense and security has had to come into play with government having to deploy Malawi Defense Forces into Cabo Delgado to boost fighting against the insurgents and protection of the masses.
Building on its long-standing peacekeeping experience with the United Nations miles away from home to Sudan, South Sudan, Abyei, Western Sahara and the Democratic Republic Congo – similar mission closer home seemed a calling.
No wonder; Malawi sending troops into Cabo Delgado in 2023 became no option and inevitable.
Here’s a defense force exposed to such assignments since 1994 under the UN and experienced enough having to date contributed over 770 troops and police personnel to UN peacekeeping operations.
However, this deployment of Malawi military personnel to northern Mozambique has been independent of the UN.
Justifying this Malawi’s defense minister Harry Mkandawire says this was in the spirit of brotherliness in honoring regional treaties on security towards promotion of domestic security in the neighboring state.
“Malawi’s deployment of the counterterrorism intervention to defend civilians in Mozambique has been to help our neighbor restore peace and avoid a humanitarian crisis. We just had to deploy our forces because an attack on Mozambique is an attack on us. We are prioritizing the fight against terrorism. It is a global concern that each country should fight terrorism hence the deployment of our soldiers to Mozambique,’’ he says.
As neighbors sharing geographical boarders and other commonalities, locals feel it is been friendlier for Malawian troops in the region to interact with them to operate in the province.
“To some degree Malawian soldiers and locals directly benefit from each through some knowledge of Chinyanja which enables locals and the Malawian troops to communicate,” says Alfonso Nunu one of the community elders in the area.
For sharing common boarders, locals in Cabo Delgado and Malawian troops seem to have bonded and thus helped the soldiers interpret threats and attaining impressive battlefield results.
Echoing Alfonso; defense minister Cristovao Chume says Mozambique is equally indebted of the military intervention from regional allies in putting down an insurrection.
These interventions, he observes have helped the affected portions of Cabo Delgado to attain peace for the terrorists have largely abandoned the areas making them a bit freer than earlier – thanks to regional allies and two SADC member states – Malawi and Tanzania which also border each other.
He says: “The situation in Cabo Delgado is stable thanks to the collaboration of different troops; Malawi, Tanzanian and also Rwanda and other troops from the region. Earlier, a lot of people had left their places of origin because the terrorist had occupied many villages but with support from different troops we have been able to capture back those villages.”
Besides, the Mozambican defense minister adds that these strides have helped restore life to normality as locals were now returning to their communities and living peacefully.
“We can affirm that at least 70% of people that fled have now relocated to their initial homes … in the same vein, we can also affirm that the number of terrorists has now declined as most of the terrorists have gone into hiding,” disclosed Chume.
Arguably, this military intervention has demonstrated how regional integration can help stabilize nations under insurgence, which is a lesson on how nations can be put to practicality of treaties and protocols, to mind being the SADC Protocol on defense and security.
Collaborating Chume, Mkandawire says Malawi’s worry to engage in fighting terror attacks in Mozambique has intimately been tied to stabilizing the entire region in the event of a possible spillover insurgence.
“It is a global concern that each country should fight terrorism. These terrorists are coming from elsewhere and passing through Tanzania and then going to cause trouble in Mozambique whilst some proceed to South Africa. Others go as far as Europe and elsewhere, United States so terrorist activities at regional level are a global concern – a concern to everybody that we should fight terrorism,” said Mkandawire.
No wonder, thanks to these military interventions free movement of people has been restore, the same way economic activities like transportation of goods has resumed having re-connected all the road networks.
Chuma adds: “We can also affirm that the oil and gas company is returning. I can also guarantee that about 80% of schools and other public infrastructures are back and running and that life is returning to normality.
Schools and business aside the restoration of peace in Cabo Delgado has also restored political activities that saw the administration of elections in the province earlier in October – 2023.
To the credit of foreign military forces, an accountability think-tank Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, observes Cabo Delgado has regained relative peace that necessitated political parties to campaign around.
“The reality is that there’s relative stability … thanks to the foreign intervention that have contributed significantly towards the current stability that we have seen and paved the way for the elections to be held,” Adriano Luvunga director of centre is quoted as having told the BBC.
The Islamist insurgency in Mozambique, however, has yet to be defeated and a long-term solution would require more than military interventions alone as is the case.
Hence, through the Permanent Joint Commission on Defence and Security, the two governments aspire to combat jointly terrorism and other forms of cross-border crimes that are threatening both countries not limited to: illegal immigration, human trafficking, poaching and contraband of minerals.
Thus, in respect of the SADC protocol on defense and security Malawi and Mozambique undertake to strengthen information-sharing, trainings and enhancement of strategic knowledge.
No wonder, Malawi minister of homeland security Ken Zikhale Ng’oma is stressing on the importance for the two neighbors to constantly engage in these aspects considering how terrorism is paralyzing economies and peace in many countries.
In an ever-dynamic world, Ng’oma presses on the importance for defense and security personnel from the two neighboring countries to identify new action strategies that will respond to the current security challenges facing them.
Equally, Mozambique’s Permanent Secretary for Defense Casimiro Augusto Mueio notes that cooperation between Malawi and Mozambique has resulted in the restoration of peace in Mozambique’s Northern Province of Cabo Delgado.
“Malawi has greatly contributed to the success story in the fight against terrorism in Mozambique. This is how far regional integration can go in restoring peace within the region,” he said.
To keep the wheels oiled, the year 2023 saw Malawi and Mozambique hosting a ministerial meeting in Malawi’s commercial capital Blantyre and co-chaired by Mozambican defence minister Chume and interior minister Arsénia Massingue on one hand and Malawian homeland security minister – Zikhale Ng’oma and his defense counterpart Mkandawire.
Grasping at straws to safeguard the region the joint defense and security meetings have been convened to assess the degree of implementation of decisions on defense, public and state security given the multifaceted manifestations that threaten their security.
Bringing together multifaceted security dimensions: intelligence, police, immigration and the military; these meetings remain a backbone of the adoption of activity-plans and implementation of security threats affecting these two southern African countries.