Southern Africa’s regional bloc on Thursday vowed a “proportionate” response to jihadists who last month raided a key town in northern Mozambique in a sharp escalation of a three-year-old insurgency.
Six presidents from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held emergency talks in the Mozambican capital Maputo, two weeks after the attack on the town of Palma left dozens dead and forced thousands from their homes.
The summit “affirmed that such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response,” the bloc said in a statement.
The 16-member grouping said it was committed to contributing towards efforts to restore peace in the area but did not specify what support it was offering.
It said a “technical” team would immediately be deployed to Maputo, without giving details of the tasks of the panel nor its composition.
Speaking to the media after the deliberations, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the Summit, “had agreed that the SADC Force should be resuscitated and capacitated immediately so that it can intervene.”
Leaders of Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe attended the meeting.
Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi on Wednesday said the insurgents had been forced out of Palma and that his government was “evaluating” its needs for external support.
“It is not about empty pride, it is about a sense of sovereignty,” he said. “No war is won if it is not clear from the start what must be done by our country and what must be done by the allies.”
Southern Africa had enjoyed relative stability compared to other regions in recent years until insurgents started battering Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province.
In a coordinated attack, insurgents seized Palma, a port that lies close to a multi-billion-dollar liquid natural gas (LNG) project viewed as crucial for the Mozambican economy.
The assault claimed dozens of lives, according to the authorities, while the UN says more than 11,000 were forced to flee. Total, the French energy giant behind the LNG project, has withdrawn its personnel from the site.
Known locally as Al-Shabaab — but with no known relation to the Somali group of the same name — Cabo Delgado’s jihadists have launched more than 800 raids on towns and villages in an apparent bid to establish an Islamic caliphate.
The violence has killed over 2,600 people and uprooted around three-quarters of a million others, according to estimates.