Botswana president Mokgweetsi Masisi on Monday flagged off a Botswana Defence Force (BDF) contingent to Mozambique as part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) standby force to combat terrorism and violent extremism in the restive Cabo Delgado province.
Islamic State-linked militants who have been terrorizing Mozambique’s gas-rich north since 2017 escalated their attacks last year and culminated on March 24 with coordinated raids on the port town of Palma in which dozens of people were killed, some decapitated, and thousands of others displaced.
The recent violence offset major gas exploration projects and raised fears it could spread to neighbouring countries, placing pressure on President Filipe Nyusi to accept foreign troops.
The 16-member SADC agreed late last month to send troops to the province. That military intervention was formalized a week after east African nation Rwanda announced it was starting to deploy 1,000 troops to the area.
Masisi appealed to the BDF to observe the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and the Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) which establishes the framework under which SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) personnel will operate in Mozambique.
“I am alive to the fact that you will be facing a deceptive enemy which is likely to use asymmetric warfare, unconventional and underhand warfare tactics against yourselves and the population you will be protecting. As professionals, you stand for much more than they do and must avoid emulating them and sinking to their level,” Masisi said.
“Your main focus as the BDF in this deployment will be prescribed by your respective commanders in the mission. I have full confidence that you will execute your task equitably and will do nothing that will taint the good image of the defence force.”
Masisi, who noted Botswana was facing serious economic challenges due to COVID-19, said the mission will be funded on a cost-sharing basis between the SADC Secretariat and the countries contributing troops.
“Notwithstanding the foregoing, my Government through the Reset Initiative is working tirelessly to reinvigorate the local economy and will be sourcing some of the services for the mission locally,” he added.