By ODIRILE TOTENG
Botswana Bureau
People photo created by nikitabuida – www.freepik.com

WITH peace and security among member states an envy of other sub-regions over the bloc’s more than 40 years of
existence, Southern Africa is hailed as the most stable grouping in the continent.

Uniquely, none of Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional individual member states’ conflicts have spilled beyond borders.

However, with the spiraling insurgency by the Al-Sunna wa Jama’a (ASWJ) Islamists in Mozambique, leaders of the SADC have their work cut out in retaining that status by preventing the catastrophe degenerating into a regional crisis.

This would unenviably bring the 16-member Southern regional bloc at par with other sub-regions where a conflict in a country can spill to neighbouring countries at the drop of a hat.

Among such crises are the Islamist insurgencies battering some Western and Central as well as the Sahel regions of the continent.

There is also the decades-old Great Lakes region where interstate expand geographically and shift from one epicentre to the other in Central and East African regions.

The Al-Shabaab insurgency is ravaging vast parts of East Africa while North Africa is battling the Mahgreb insurgency with several countries under siege.

Ahead of, and during the recent SADC double troika summit in Maputo, Mozambique, to assess crisis, the bloc’s leaders conceded the possibility of the terror in the country spilling beyond the borders.

“The attacks in Mozambique are an affront to peace and security, not only in Mozambique, but also in the region and the international community as a whole,” said Mokgweetsi Masisi, Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.

Masisi, the Botswana president, was speaking on the eve of the summit held in Maputo.

The Cabo Delgado crisis, as the conflict in northern Mozambique is referred because of the province it is located, began in 2017.

It has escalated dramatically since the beginning of 2020, with over 2 500 civilians killed and close to 700 000 people internally displaced.

It is only last month that it caught international attention after the militants took over control of the coastal town of Palma.

The Islamic State (ISIS), to which the militants in Mozambique have pledged allegiance, last year issued threats to regional powerhouse, South Africa, if it deployed its military in the neighbouring country.

Liesl Louw-Vaudran, Senior Researcher and Project Leader (Southern Africa) at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), noted the African Union (AU) and its various organs are bound by the principle of subsidiarity.

This, the expert explained, compels AU to defer to the eight regional economic communities and mechanisms in responding to regional conflicts.

Louw-Vaudran noted SADC had insisted on upholding subsidiarity, notably when it comes to issues such as the intra-state crises in Lesotho, Zimbabwe and currently Mozambique.

“The AU has in various instances offered its help but continues to defer to SADC,” the official stated.

At the conclusion of the recent summit, SADC announced the immediate deployment of a regional bloc technical mission to northern Mozambique.

It is to assess how the Botswana-headquartered SADC can assist helping the country counter the insurgency.

“The outcomes of the Summit reflect SADC’s resolve to vigorously repudiate and combat this phenomenon that can undermine our shared future of development and the welfare of our peoples,” SADC chairperson, Filipe Nyusi, said.

Nyusi is also the president of Mozambique.

Mozambique is set to feature on the agenda of the SADC Extraordinary Summit, in May, also in Mozambique, where leaders will address matters of socio-economic integration of the bloc.– CAJ News