AFTER months of dithering, the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) is finally dealing with the problem of rising insurgency in Mozambique, three years after it broke out. It is surprising that the region’s leaders waited this long to deal with a problem on their door step and which clearly has more ramifications for them that meet the eye.
Aid groups in northern Mozambique say attacks on civilians have displaced over 430 000 people during the three years of Islamist terrorism, much of which could have been prevented if the regional leaders had acted with haste to nip the insurgency in the bud.
It cannot be that they did not know: The Islamist attacks in Cabo Delgado began in October 2017 when the insurgents overran police stations in Mocimboa da Praia.
The region has vast oil and gas deposits estimated to be worth $60 billion.
Reports suggest that up to 2 000 people have been killed in brazen attacks in the conflict in the verdant mainly-Muslim province. Their attacks give the notorious Islamic State (IS) a foothold in southern Africa, an extremely concerning and dangerous development that should have worried Sadc leaders sooner.
The history of the group in the Arab countries and North Africa where the havoc it caused is still being felt today, suggest that it is formidable, especially when it has been given time to take root.
And in Mozambique, it is easy to see why it took hold easily; exploiting rampant poverty and unemployment to recruit disgruntled youths to their cause to establish Islamic rule in the area.
Their message resonated too because many locals complain that they have benefited little from the province’s oil and gas and ruby industries.
In Cabo Delgado, a perfect storm of public disaffection with their rulers, cyclones, COVID-19, and cholera created the opportunity for the insurgents.
The Mozambican government clearly has no capacity to deal with the insurgency and appealed for international help.
That help has not been forthcoming from its neighbours who, despite the meeting on Monday, are not rushing to its aid, with any response only likely in the New Year.
That the insurgents easily gained a foothold in the neighbouring country should worry Zimbabwe, given the proximity of the region to its own developing oil and gas fields in Muzarabani.
It is also a country with 90% unemployment, disaffected youths with little or no employment prospects while the economy has been in the toilet for much of the new millennium.
Sadc needs to act fast, the enemy is on the door step.