Botswana sent 296 troops to Mozambique Monday to join soldiers from other Southern African Development Community, or SADC, countries. The SADC troops are being deployed for the first time to quell a deadly Islamist insurgency in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s northernmost province.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi saw off the troops at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in the capital Monday morning.
Masisi, who is the chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defense and Security, said the deployment is part of the region’s effort to promote stability in member nation Mozambique.
“Today, we witness yet another milestone in our set out objectives of propelling the peace agenda through our region in following through on the SADC mandate aimed at facilitating the peaceful conditions in the northern part of the Republic of Mozambique in Cabo Delgado, in particular,” he said.
Masisi warns the troops to brace for an unconventional war in Cabo Delgado.
“I am alive to the fact that you will be facing a deceptive enemy which is likely to use asymmetric warfare, unconventional and underhand war tactics against yourself and the population you will be protecting. As professionals, you stand for much more than they do, and you must avoid emulating them and sinking to their level,” he said.
Botswana becomes the second SADC nation to send troops to Cabo Delgado, after South African soldiers landed in Mozambique last week.
Rwanda, which is not a member of the regional 16-member bloc, also sent 1,000 troops earlier this month.
Adriano Nuvunga, director of the Centre for Democracy and Development in Maputo, welcomes the arrival of foreign troops but is worried about the coordination of the operation.
“These are troops from different nations, different cultures (and) different codes of operation. It’s a further challenge for Mozambique to coordinate this. It’s a further militarization, which can fuel the conflict with consequences for the local communities, for humanitarian situations and abuse of human rights,” said Nuvunga.
Last month, SADC resolved to send troops to fight Islamist insurgents in the oil-rich Cabo Delgado region.
The civil unrest has claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people while an estimated 800,000 people have been displaced.