Maputo – As the insurgency by Islamic State – linked group in northern Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado enters its 7th year, it has been announced that troops belonging to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will depart the country by July 15th due to financial constraints. The conflict has resulted in thousands of deaths, while the United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that over one million people have been displaced.

These troops, known as the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), have been assisting Mozambique in its efforts to combat an Islamist insurgency in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, alongside the Rwandan Defence and Forces. SAMIM comprises troops from eight SADC countries, namely Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia, and has been stationed in Cabo Delgado since July 2021.

In August 2023, SADC approved a 12-month extension of the SAMIM mission until July 2024, including a plan for the gradual withdrawal of forces from the participating countries. However, SADC has now confirmed the withdrawal of SAMIM troops through an official statement.

This is the first time that SADC has publicly confirmed the withdrawal over financial challenges and that the process is already underway. Conversely, this development occurs at a time when terrorism has gained new momentum, with reports of attacks on communities, positions of the Defense Security Forces and a series of beheadings since the beginning of this year.

Meanwhile, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said his country will continue to work with all SADC countries individually and is open to bilateral cooperation with other friendly countries if justified.

“Everything indicates that July 15th could be considered as a date on which they will completely withdraw. But in the meantime, we, as a country will continue to intensify our efforts together with the countries that offer to work bilaterally with us, in case of need, but we will also work with all SADC countries individually,” Nyusi told reporters in Lusaka, Zambia, last Saturday, after a meeting with his Zambian counterpart, Hakainde Hichilema, who is the current chairperson of the SADC body on Cooperation in Politics, Defence and Security on the sidelines of the Troika summit.

Since 2017, Mozambique’s oil and gas-rich Northern Province of Cabo Delgado has been facing an armed insurgency which so far has displaced over one million people internally and has had 5000 others killed.

Veronica Macamo, Mozambican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, emphasized that SADC has chosen to prioritize its mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo over SAMIM.

According to Macamo, SADC believes that the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is relatively stable compared to the violence in the eastern region, where over 120 armed groups are vying for control of the country’s natural resources.

Webster Zambara, Senior Project Leader at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in South Africa, commented on SADC’s decision, stating, “We must acknowledge that peace and security issues are within the purview of the Mozambican government. The deployment of SADC troops, alongside Rwandan forces, indicates Mozambique’s struggle to address the insurgency.”

It is evident that the Mozambican government needs to demonstrate its capacity to provide security and protection for vulnerable populations. Failure to do so may result in further casualties and displacements, and SADC may need to reconsider its decision to withdraw troops from the region.

By Charles Mangwiro