Sapien Sapien analyst
The just-ended Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit which aimed to make deliberations regarding the ongoing orgy of violence in Cabo Delgado resolved to extend the mandate of troop deployment to Mozambique, ostensibly, under the assumption that the presence of troops from regional armies has thus far managed to curb the spiralling violence that was threatening to get out of hand. This is in the backdrop of reports that the insurgents far from being neutralised are in fact regrouping and planning rejuvenated attacks..
That military-centric approach to the anarchy in the restive Cabo Delgado region, which I have written about and vehemently opposed, was lauded by Rwandan President Paul Kagame as the best foot forward and, through the deployment of serious propaganda, led many to believe that troops from Rwanda had essentially “defeated terrorism” in Mozambique. This bellicose rhetoric was complemented by confident disclosures by Zimbabwe President ED Mnangagwa when the deployments were made that the objective of the mission was to “defeat acts of terrorism” happening in Cabo Delgado.
Of course, these wishes are embraced by all and sundry and we all hope that the earlier this menace is dealt with the better. But then fundamentals can never be ignored and neither can they be substituted for haste and replaced by rhetorical statements of solidarity.
As Sadc was announcing that it has resolved to extend the mandate, an obvious indication that reality on the ground is not commensurate to and with political and diplomatic pronouncements on the matter, the BBC News on January 14, 2022 was reporting that suspected Islamic militants had killed three people in Nangande and Ibo districts. These attacks led to numerous people fleeing their homes with property being destroyed and fish harvest looted. Attacks have been consistent and ongoing whilst radicalisation as a threat and source of anarchy is yet to be addressed by having robust counter radicalisation and de-radicalisation initiatives.
Professor Adriano Nuvunga, the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and part of the Steering Committee of the Mozambique Human Rights Defenders Network (RMDDH), warned Sadc not to relax because insurgents could strike at any time.
“The insurgency is not yet neutralised. The violent extremists are regrouping, launching attacks from several parts of Cabo Delgado and they are also expanding to neighbouring province Niassa where they have launched significant attacks,” he said.
Definitely, the approach to take a military centric approach, as I have indicated on numerous instances, only can go as far as killing terrorists and not killing terrorism. This thrust is worsened by a paradigm shift in US foreign policy, which country singlehandedly had managed to chaperone the international community into embarking upon what was known as the Global War on Terror.
The characterisation by the Departments of National Security and Defence of the US that Russia and China pose an existential threat to US interests across the world saw a policy shift from counter- terrorism to a greater affinity in the mechanics of hybrid warfare as the ideologically divided behemoths seek to outdo each other. This is where timing by Sadc was needed. I remember recommending that the law enforcement approach to the madness in Cabo Delgado was going to draw better dividends premised upon the Indonesian Model which utilises hard and soft approaches to counter terrorism. Capacity of the Mozambicans to face such an asymmetric threat at this point in time is restricted and hence, just like Indonesia post events of October 2002 in Bali, training and establishment of new institutions to confront this hybrid threat ought to have been the thrust.
I am definitely exposing the failure, at least at this point in time, of the military-centric approach adopted by Sadc in Mozambique now that we are in the mid-term. Events in the UAE where Houthi rebels made use of drones to attack Abu Dhabi for dabbling in Yemeni affairs exemplifies the quantum of risks faced by troop contributing nations.
My prognosis on the adopted military-centric approach adopted by Sadc remains poor. Timing really affected sentiments and public perception for the attention of the so-called international community is now hermetically confirmed to Central Asia where Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine are proving to be definite spheres of hybrid warfare moving into the future. Slowly but surely, Terrorism, as we had come to know and appreciate it during the zenith of the implementation of the Bush Doctrine, is becoming a footnote event, especially if it is manifesting in Africa.
The model of engagement must be realigned to and with the needs specific to Cabo Delgado. These acts of criminality must be defined and categorised as such to ensure that the right problem is addressed.
At present, as I have indicated in numerous prior submissions, Sadc and its military-centric approach is still chasing the wind and will probably continue doing so moving into the future.
Sapien is a trade and security analyst