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President Nyusi will chair the emergency summit on 8 April having tried to minimise the crisis
Three years after the start of the insurgency in Cabo Delgado which has so far claimed 2,500 lives and displaced over 700,000 President Filipe Nyusi has at last allowed the crisis to be the subject for a regional security summit.
The meeting known as a double troika of the Southern African Development Community – grouping together the organisation's political and security chiefs – is due to be held in Maputo on 8 April. It follows lengthy discussions between Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa about the insurgents' threat to the wider region.
They were following on from a SADC summit in November which agreed on the finalisation of a comprehensive regional response and support for Mozambique in dealing with the insurgency. In the interim the European Union, Portugal, and the US have offered military training and consultancy services.
By hosting the summit, Nyusi, who has preferred to use private military contractors rather than neighbouring states, will try to control the agenda. Botswana and Zimbabwe have substantial armed forces with peacekeeping experience, as does South Africa. All three are offering help.
The cue for the emergency summit was the devastating attack on 24 March by the fighters of the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jammah (ASWJ) movement on Palma, just seven kilometres from Afungi, the site of Total's $20bn gas plant.
Nyusi's government insists the ASWJ has been defeated in Palma and the army, the Forças Armadas de Defesa de Moçambique (FADM), is in control. The government flew journalists up to the region on 4 April who confirmed that the militants were no longer in Palma and the immediate area. A press trip five days earlier had come under hostile fire.
Some are warning about the danger of a vacuum this month, now the rains are over and the 'fighting season' has begun. The contract between Mozambique's police and the South African-based Dyck Advisory Group was due to expire on 6 April. Several other PMCs are vying for contracts in Cabo Delgado.
Even if the SADC summit produces a grand plan for security cooperation, civic activists in Mozambique warn that the government has been ignoring the political and socio-economic issues that have fuelled the insurgency.
Some groups want much more determined diplomatic action, such as the African Union and SADC appointing special envoys to Cabo Delgado. They want the insurgency on the agenda of the AU's Peace and Security Commission, which could trigger more regional action but would be resisted by the Nyusi government.
The insurgency comes at a difficult time for the region: Zambia and Zimbabwe are locked in their own politico-economic tribulations; Angola, a fellow Lusophone state with its own multiplying economic woes, has tried to keep its distance; and South Africa's government, trying to rebuild after the serial disasters of Jacob Zuma's presidency, has little appetite for a complex regional intervention.
The most likely actions look to be some form of hybrid regional support for a renewed military campaign by Mozambican forces under the leadership of the generals recently reshuffled by Nyusi (AC Vol 62 No 7, Insurgents turn up the heat, Vol 62 No 3, Nyusi's loyalty test & Vol 62 No 1, Nyusi running out of road).
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