By Kitsepile Nyathi
Southern African leaders on Wednesday agreed to extend the mandate of a regional troop deployment to fight insurgents in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado, providing certainty to combat violence that threatened to rip through the country.
The countries from the Southern African Development Committee (SADC) block met in Malawi's capital Lilongwe where they agreed to extend the intervention for an unspecified period to fight the Islamic State-linked insurgents.
"Summit noted the good progress made once the deployment of the SADC Mission in Mozambique and extended its mandate," read the communique at the end of a two day extraordinary summit.
SADC agreed in June 2021 to send troops to help Mozambique to counter the insurgency in the northern parts of the country, which began in 2017.
The conflict has claimed thousands of lives and displaced tens of thousands of people. On Tuesday, Mozambique had inked another deal to extend the stay of Rwandan troops in the country for a further six months, to ensure liberated areas are not retaken by the group calling itself al-Shabaab, but which has no known ties to the Somali militants known by the same name.
The violence put a chokehold on Mozambique’s economy, disrupting the oil and gas projects worth billions of dollars after international companies were targeted and forced to halt operations.
The regional leaders said the military intervention has been a success and commended Mozambique's neighbours for contributing their own resources to fight the insurgency.
"Summit noted the good progress made since the deployment of the SADC Mission in Mozambique and extended its mandate with associated budgetary implications, and that it will continue to monitor the situation going forwards," the communique added.
"Summit commended the SADC Region for its unwavering commitment to peace and security, and for using its own resources in addressing and combating terrorism in Cabo Delgado, which is a unique precedent on the African continent."
It added: "Summit commended Member States that have provided personnel, equipment and financial support, as well as making additional pledges towards the deployment of the SADC Mission in Mozambique for their commitment to regional peace and security and especially the enormous sacrifice made despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economies."
SADC’s troop deployment that was initially scheduled to run for three months was due to end on October 15 last year before it was extended until the end of 2021.
The Southern African troops are fighting alongside those from Rwanda, which were deployed mid last year to help Mozambique’s poorly resourced security forces that had been struggling to end the insurgency.
SADC countries were pushed to intervene by fears that the insurgency will spread to their territories if left unchecked.
Mozambique has also been fighting armed bandits in the central parts of the country.