Deputy News Editor
SADC will start deploying its standby force into Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province any time from now once Mozambique agrees on the final details of the force and its commanders.
The standby force was expected to start deploying from tomorrow, but last minute hitches have reportedly seen Mozambique stalling the signing of the “Status of Forces” agreement with the SADC bloc.
It is understood that SADC had already informed the United Nations of its plan to deploy into Mozambique. But there are likely delays after SADC military experts who planned the Cabo Delgado intervention had proposed that a South African major-general should command the standby brigade with a Botswana colonel as the deputy commander.
Diplomatic sources say that Mozambique has instead stated a strong preference for a Zimbabwean commander, considering its experience of successful past cooperation with Zimbabwean forces and its feeling that senior Zimbabwean officers have significant experience of successful counter-insurgency operations. With the SADC standby force taking long to be deployed, Rwanda started deploying 1 000 soldiers and police officers on Friday last week, a development that has reportedly stunned some in SADC who felt that the Rwandan forces were supposed to operate under the SADC mandate and deploy with the SADC brigade.
“While SADC has already agreed to deploy, they will only do so once Mozambique has approved the deployment. Indeed, it is true that a decision was taken for SADC to deploy a standby force to fight banditry in Mozambique,” said the sources.
South Africa’s Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the SABC on Saturday that it was “unfortunate” that Rwanda had deployed its troops into Mozambique before SADC.