Naledi Pandor. Picture: SUPPLIED
Naledi Pandor. Picture: SUPPLIED

International relations minister Naledi Pandor on Thursday expressed frustration over the region’s failure to help Mozambique contain an escalating Islamist insurgency.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) was due to hold a special summit this week in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, to discuss its response to the insurgency, which has caused more than 500,000 people to flee their homes in the north of the country. The militants are also encroaching on a $20bn natural gas project Total is building. The summit was cancelled due to a resurgence of coronavirus cases.

“The situation in Mozambique and our ability as SADC to arrive at an agreement as to what form of support we might provide remains a very worrying puzzle to us,” Pandor said in a webinar on Wednesday. “We have made every effort to reach out to the government of Mozambique and to sit with them to decide a support agenda.”

President Filipe Nyusi’s government has so far resisted outside help to end the conflict in Cabo Delgado province that started in 2017, relying on mercenaries instead.

“Thus far, we’ve not succeeded in concretising exactly the nature of support we should give to the government,” said Pandor. “Either through the police service, intelligence, or indeed our defence force.”

‘Humanitarian catastrophe’

Mozambique has engaged with SADC about the insurgency since May 2019 and has communicated the help it needs, Manuel Gonçalves, deputy minister of foreign affairs, said in an interview Thursday.

“We will continue to work with the region,” he said.

The violence escalated in 2020, with the militants seizing a port town in August. Attacks near Total’s site prompted the French company to temporarily halt the project and evacuate staff in January.

The number of displaced is “skyrocketing” and about 1.6-million people need assistance, Myrta Kaulard, the UN resident co-ordinator in Maputo, told reporters. The UN urgently needs $254m to ramp up aid to “avoid a humanitarian catastrophe”, according to Valentin Tapsoba, the UN Refugee Agency’s Southern Africa director.

EU  officials are visiting Mozambique this week to discuss possible assistance.


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