Zimbabwe is sending a team of 304 defence instructors to Mozambique to train Mozambican troops as its commitment to the SADC Standby Force Mission in Mozambique under the SADC Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.
Along with the training team, one specialist officer will be assigned to the coordinating mechanism of the SADC Force headquarters in Maputo.
Announcing the deployment yesterday at Defence Headquarters in Harare, Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, who was accompanied by Commander ZDF General Philip Valerio Sibanda, said the contingent will be sent to Mozambique once the Status of Force Agreement on training has been signed.
“While other countries have to deploy combat troops, Zimbabwe pledged to assist in the training of Mozambique armed forces to enhance their capability to combat terrorism.
“The President and Commander-In-Chief ZDF has the power to authorise the deployment of troops outside Zimbabwe in terms of section 213 (3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe for a number of reasons which include but not limited to, peacekeeping operations under United Nations or any other international or regional organisation of which Zimbabwe is a member, to defend the territorial integrity of a country, in fulfilment of an international commitment and in defence of Zimbabwe national security or national interest,” she said.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said last month’s SADC Extraordinary Summit of Heads of States and Government took the decision to deploy elements of the bloc’s Standby Force in support of terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado Province.
Following the summit, the SADC secretariat had been preparing the necessary legal documents and instruments to enable deployment of the SADC Standby Force, which were signed early this month.
The deployment had two major elements, combat and training, with the Status of Force Agreement on combat activities having been signed on July 8 and so countries that are currently deploying are doing so on the strength of the agreement.
SADC’s Rapid Deployment Capacity Force comprising troops from South Africa and Botswana have arrived in Pemba in Mozambique.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri noted that in terms of Section 214 of the Constitution, Parliament will be formally informed of the deployment of the training team.
The SADC protocol signed in 2001 established the objectives of the organ on Politics, Defence and Security to promoting peace and security across Southern Africa, protecting the region’s people from instability due to the breakdown of law and order, developing a common policy throughout the region and cooperating on matters related to security and defence.
The deployments are also within the SADC Mutual Defence Pact of 2003 which sought to operationalise the mechanisms of the organ on Politics, Defence and Security to facilitate mutual cooperation in defence and security matters focusing on conflict resolution, military preparedness, collective self-defence and self-action, destabilising factors and settlement of disputes.
Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi has expressed his gratitude to African countries sending troops to help fight insurgents in his country.
“The mandate of foreign forces is to help Mozambican forces restore peace and stability,” President Nyusi said in an address to the nation this week, reports Africanews.
Botswana on Monday, became the first country of the 16-nation bloc to dispatch soldiers, having deployed 70 out of its 296 troop contribution.
Angola’s Parliament on Tuesday approved the integration of Angolan forces into the SADC Standby Force mission in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.
The Angolan contingent joining the SADC force on August 6 for three months is a team of 20 officers of which two will be in the regional cooperation mechanism, eight officers in the force command and 10 crew members for the IL-76 military transport aircraft.
Rwanda, which is not a member of SADC early this month deployed 1 000 troops to Cabo Delgado to fight alongside SADC forces.
Since 2017, the Cabo Delgado region in northern Mozambique has been experiencing terrorist attacks by an armed group known locally as Al-Shabab, which is linked to ISIL (ISIS).
Although the population of the province is largely Muslim, they have been the major victims of the terrorists who have ransacked towns and gained control of key roadways, destroying infrastructure and beheading civilians.
In some cases, they have forced local people into their ranks or held them as se_x slaves.
Since August last year, the fighters have been in control of the key port town of Mocimboa da Praia, while in March they launched a coordinated assault on Palma town, killing dozens and displacing tens of thousands, while also forcing the French energy firm Total to suspend its US$20 billion gas project.
To date the violence has killed over 3 000 people and displaced almost 800 000, half of whom are children.