"SADC stays in Mozambique until 2022 but will be unable to contain insurgency"

UE termina hoje o treino de duas primeiras companhias especiais

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) military deployment in Cabo Delgado is likely to extend into 2022 and still be unable to contain the expanding insurgency in northern Mozambique, predicts Eurasia Group.

According to the political risk assessment firm, the recent outbreak of unrest in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng provinces has led South Africa - the leader of the SADC mission, which has a planned deployment of troops in the order of 3000 personnel, backed up by air and naval means - to reconsider its participation in military support to Mozambique.

Pretoria "made the authorization of the mission conditional on assessments by the South African and Botswana intelligence services confirming its necessity. The change in position is due in part to the internal security situation" in South Africa, stresses the Eurasia Group in a report released late last week.

The South African government has deployed 25,000 troops to quell recent unrest in the provinces of KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng, where they are to remain until October.

But Pretoria's change of position is still related to concerns about the financing of the operation by SADC member states.

The sub-regional organization initially budgeted the operation in northern Mozambique at $12 million, but cost estimates have since risen to $60 million, much on the strength of expectations that the mission will now run until mid-2022.

"The economic impact of the unrest in South Africa and the additional expenditure by the South African state to address its socio-economic challenges make it unlikely that South Africa will meet its quota of a total 1,500 troops earmarked for the SADC force," the analyst institute estimates.

On the other hand, other SADC member states "have so far shown no willingness to fill the financial and personnel gap left by South Africa, calling into question the effectiveness of the regional intervention," adds the Eurasia Group.

A small battalion of South African troops, consisting of special forces and unrelated to the planned SADC force, was deployed in northern Mozambique last July 22, but it is "unlikely" that these troops will have "a significant impact" on the evolution of the conflict, the risk assessment institution says.

"The SADC response is now likely to be significantly smaller, leaving Mozambique dependent on further troop deployments from Rwanda and potentially Angola," the report adds.

Mozambique has requested assistance from Rwanda to carry out combat operations in Cabo Delgado, but "it is unlikely" that the security situation in the province will stabilize in the short term, "due to the lack of coordination between Mozambican and Rwandan troops, which has led to tensions between the two contingents," the institution also stresses.

"So far, Mozambican troops have been unwilling to accept the direction of their Rwandan counterparts and have backed down on two separate occasions, leaving Rwandan troops isolated," illustrates Eurasia Group.

This dynamic may be exacerbated by the arrival of troops from SADC, whose force has its own commander. Mozambique is creating a joint operational command, but no announcement has been made about who will lead this structure or where it will be based.

The operational challenges facing the joint military mission "will likely facilitate the southward spread of the insurgency toward the locations where liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects are installed," the same source estimated.

According to Eurasia Group, attacks by insurgent groups "have been ongoing since July 20 in the vicinity of Palma," where fighting last broke out in April.

Palma, which is 30 km from many of the LNG projects under development, has been the base for many foreign contractors. It is unlikely that any LNG projects in the north will restart operations until the area is safe.

"The long-term security and stability of LNG projects in the region will benefit from training programs for the Mozambican armed forces managed by the United States, the European Union, and Portugal. Given Total's significant investment in the country, France could possibly contribute additional resources to the training of the Mozambican security forces," Eurasia Group concluded.

Armed groups have terrorized Cabo Delgado province since 2017, with some attacks claimed by the radical armed group Islamic State.

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