from ARMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – THE Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS’s) threats against South Africa raise the spectre of terrorism in neighbouring Mozambique degenerating into a regional crisis.
Already, the insurgency is greatly tainting the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC’s) reputation as the most peaceful regional bloc in the continent.
Recently, ISIS, warned it would “open a fighting front inside South African borders” if it deployed its military to boost the response by the Mozambican government to eradicate the ISIS-affiliated Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamaah, whose terror has led to the deaths of an estimated 2 000 civilians in the Cabo Delgado. Members of the Mozambican military have also been killed.
Considering the threat has been issued in coincidence with leaders of the SADC committing to support fellow member Mozambique against the armed groups and terrorists perpetrating bloodshed in the north, the threat could be directed to South Africa but ultimately a menace to the entire bloc.
“It may not be long until the power of the ISIS threat toward other countries in the (Southern Africa) region is tested,” the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) stated earlier.
This week, the organisation noted the lack of clarity as to whether South Africa had already deployed forces to its eastern neighbour.
Nonetheless, there had been no indications from Cabo Delgado of additional South African forces on the ground.
South Africa’s troops, officially, are working under the Operation Copper, a longstanding maritime security and piracy prevention deployment.
ACLED’s response followed calls by South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) for the deployment of troops to Mozambique and for the country to take the threats by ISIS seriously.
“South Africa cannot afford to ignore this threat from ISIS or take its warning lightly,” KobusMarais, DA Shadow Minister of Defence, had stated.
ACLED noted that while it was currently uncertain that South Africa would deploy troops, considering the army was also involved in the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, other countries in the region and abroad had already made a commitment to assist Mozambique if requested.
The COVID-19 is causing severe strain on the country’s defense budget.
ACLED noted countries that had committed to assist end the insurgency include Malawi, Mozambique’s northwestern neighbour. Eswatini, Zambia and Zimbabwe are other neighbouring countries to Mozambique.
President Lazarus Chakwerwa, Malawi’s new leader, denounced the violence in Mozambique during a call to his counterpart, President Filipe Nyusi, last week.
“France and Malawi (have) dipped their toes in the water, considering if they will partner with the Mozambican government in the future,” ACLED stated.
The South African-based Institute of Security Studies meanwhile, noted calls have been made for non-African intervention to prevent violent extremism spreading in Southern Africa.
Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamaah’s insurgency in Mozambique has coincided with vast discoveries of oil and gas offshore Mozambique.
The killing of oil workers during the banditry has raised fears the terror is linked to a battle over control of natural resources.
The insurgency is also linked to an alleged rift between Muslim groups in the north, whereas some are proponents of the Sharia law, seen as extremist, and others pro-state.
– CAJ News