On Wednesday, countries in Southern Africa decided to send troops to northern Mozambique to assist in the repression of a violent Islamist insurgency that has wreaked havoc in the region for the last three years.
During a one-day meeting, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc “authorized” the deployment of the “SADC Standby Force in support of Mozambique in the fight against terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado,” according to the group’s executive secretary Stergomena Tax. However, she did not provide any information on the deployment’s size or timelines.
According to a leaked document from earlier this year, about 3,000 troops should be sent to Cabo Delgado region, where rebels have taken control of towns and villages, causing hundreds of thousands of people to abandon their homes.
Since erupting in late 2017, the violence in Mozambique’s gas-rich northern region has intensified, and there are concerns that it could spread to neighboring nations as well.
In a concerted assault on the northern town of Palma on March 24, Islamic State-affiliated terrorists ransacked houses and murdered civilians while hundreds of others fled into the nearby woods.
As a result of the assault, violence increased in intensity, displacing approximately 800,000 people from their homes, according to the United Nations, and claiming the lives of more than 2,800 people, half of whom were civilians.
The leaders of Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe were present at the discussions in Maputo.