The Southern African Development Community (SADC) extraordinary summit opened Tuesday in the Malawian capital of Lilongwe to review the progress of the bloc’s mission in Mozambique and renew its commitment.
SADC nations resolved last June to send troops to help Mozambique respond to an insurgency in the northern province of Cabo Delgado — which has claimed thousands of lives since 2017.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defense and Security Cooperation, said since the deployment of the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), significant progress has been made.
“The security situation in Cabo Delgado is improving, which has allowed for some internally displaced persons to return to their homes and resume their normal lives,” he said.
He said the efforts of the mission, working in collaboration with the Mozambican forces, have created safe passage to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance to the population affected by terror activities.
“I wish to express appreciation and commend the work of SAMIM on the ground. I equally appreciate and commend member states who have supported this work financially and through the deployment of personnel and equipment,” he said.
Despite the gains, Ramaphosa said it has not been smooth throughout as the mission has suffered casualties.
He extended the bloc’s condolences to the governments of Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, and South Africa for the deaths of their “brave sons, who were lost in the line of duty.”
SADC will forever cherish their service and contributions to peace and security in the region, he said.
Noting the magnitude on the ground that still needs to be covered in the work of the regional force, the South African leader said the bloc cannot let their guard down.
Terrorism, he said, cannot be permitted to continue to thrive in any part of our region as its presence will reverse the stability and progress the SADC has achieved in its four decades of existence.
The SADC mission comprises mostly troops from South Africa, Tanzania, and Botswana.
Top officials met in Pretoria in October and agreed to extend the mission with the same mandate of combating acts of terrorism and violent extremism for another three months until Jan. 15, 2022.
The two-day Lilongwe meeting is expected to clarify the next steps of the mission.