Author: Marko Svicevic
Post-doctoral research fellow, South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg
What the proposed SADC deployment in Mozambique means for the sub-region
Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met again on 23 June 2021 in Maputo to discuss the expanding insurgency in northern Mozambique. It’s the first time the Summit has met since a technical assessment to Mozambique recommended a 3000 strong military deployment. In a communique issued following the meeting, the SADC Summit – its highest decision-making body – endorsed the recommendations made by the technical assessment and approved a mandate for the SADC Standby Force Mission to Mozambique.
From domestic grievances to terrorist acts and foreign aggression
Now approaching its fourth year, the conflict in Mozambique has raged across Cabo Delgado, its northern most province neighboring Tanzania. Initially, the Mozambican government seemed to brush off the violence as local criminality. In the last year and a half however, it has consistently re-framed this narrative as one of ‘foreign aggression.’ Both arguments have merit; there is ample research to suggest the drivers of the conflict are placed with a sense of neglect by the government together with high levels of poverty and unemployment. At the same time, the conflict is being internationalised with some evidence of foreign fighters joining the ‘insurgency’, which has since become known as Ansar al-Sunna. Further yet, the group’s pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) in 2019 and the US designation of ‘ISIS-Mozambique’ as Specially Designated Global Terrorists may be playing into Maputo’s newfound narrative: that the conflict is not rooted in domestic issues but constitutes an act of aggression against Mozambique’s sovereignty.