Windhoek – The 48th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum has unanimously adopted a strongly-worded motion calling for urgent regional action to stop armed insurgents that are destabilising northern Mozambique.
The Plenary is the highest decision-making body of the SADC PF which brings together 15 national parliaments of the SADC Region. It met virtually on Friday and Saturday with 14 of the Member Parliaments represented.
The Speaker of the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Advocate Jacob Francis Mudenda moved a motion exhorting the Plenary to condemn “the terrorist attacks in the Republic of Mozambique which are threatening the country’s security and sovereignty and undermining efforts to consolidate the rule of law and democracy.”
He noted that the armed attacks had claimed the lives of unarmed civilians, displaced others and damaged property and public infrastructure in recent years.
He added that the “barbaric attacks” had negatively impacted on the livelihoods of ordinary citizens, especially women, girls and children, many of whom were failing to access health and education services.
The Speaker argued that the Islamic State-linked insurgency constituted “a serious threat to regional peace and stability” as well as to international peace and security.
He called for immediate collective action by SADC in line with the SADC Mutual Defence Pact, and by the African Union, to counter the terrorist attacks.
Mudenda called on SADC to help Mozambique “stem the violent insurgency and bring relief to thousands of innocent civilians who are bearing the brunt of these barbaric attacks”.
Angolan Member of Parliament Honourable Josefina Diakite, seconded the motion.
She noted that Mozambique was dealing with a humanitarian crisis due to the terrorist attacks and urgently needed SADC regional solidarity.
“I underline the need for us to stand in solidarity and to fight what is happening against democracy in Southern Africa and destabilising the peace in Mozambique,” she said.
Diakite said the region could not stand idly by while people were being killed, displaced and rendered vulnerable to food and other insecurities.
The Angolan lawmaker noted that the increasing attacks on defenceless civilians were brutal and said scores of people had been gruesomely decapitated while scores of women and children had been abducted.
Noting that acts of terrorism were increasing all over the world, Diakite said SADC MPs had a role to “safeguard peace and prevent these hideous crimes.”
She reminded the Plenary of Resolution 2395 of the Security Council of the United Nations on counterterrorism, and the UN General Assembly on International Cooperation and Information Sharing. She advised Member states to be vigilant in the face of spreading terrorism and human trafficking. She advocated for group action against terrorism, saying peace and security in the region were of paramount importance.
The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Eswatini, Honourable Petrus Mavimbela said his country was gravely concerned by the “indiscriminate” terrorist attacks which also affected areas visited by foreigners and investors.
“Such acts are impacting on the economy, education, health, politics and social welfare of the Mozambique populace,” Mavimbela said.
He noted that the Islamic extremists had been attacking civilians since 2017 in several parts of Mozambique, using explosives and other devices to attack buildings and vehicles while kidnapping other people.
“Europeans and everyone else are viewed as legitimate targets, including those engaged in tourism, humanitarian aid workers, journalists or business people,” the Eswatini Speaker said.
He said in one incident the Jihadists beheaded scores of men who were participating in an initiation ceremony.
“As a country we are praying for a regional coordinated response to curb these terrorist acts which will soon spiral in other provinces of Mozambique and will definitely impact on the economies of neighbouring counties and the regional bloc at large. We plea for Troika (SADC Troika of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation) intervention,” he said.
South African MP Honourable Darren Bergman said what was happening in the Mozambique was objectionable but not new.
“The bells were rung in 2014 for us for the first time. It’s a topic that I’m passionate about and I strongly support the motion put before us,” he said.
He suggested setting up of a task team to explore various response options to the phenomenon. He said the region had people who could offer “great guidance” on responding to the terrorist attacks and held out the Speaker of the Parliament of South Africa, Honourable Thandi Modise – a respected former combatant – as an example of people the SADC Region could turn to for advice.
Bergman said the SADC Region need not reinvent the wheel in counterterrorism and could draw lessons from regions with experience in that regard.
He stressed that time was of the essence.
“SADC is already vulnerable. Terrorism takes a lot from our economy in the sense that we have to build on defence, spend on policing and the military. This takes away from social development,” he said.
He urged Member States to be vigilant and ensure that “fundraising and recruitment into terrorism are being policed”.
Botswana MP Polson Majaga called for “swift” action to “dismantle’’ terrorist networks in the SADC Region.
“This thing will end up in all SADC countries if we take our time or concentrate on COVID-19. It’s time we talk to our Ministers of Defence for them to hold a meeting and (share) strategies to combat this terrorism,” Majaga said.
The Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia, Professor Peter Katjavivi, also supported the motion and pledged Namibia’s full support to Mozambique.
“I want to take this opportunity to reassure our brothers and sisters in Mozambique of Namibia’s support and solidarity. We welcome this motion, which is an expression of our collective wish,” he said.
Zimbabwean lawmaker Goodluck Kwaramba said Islamic extremists had “declared an unjust war” on the people of Mozambique and must be stopped.
“They are killing women, girls and little children, thus turning Mozambique into a war zone. Mozambique is our neighbour. We can’t sit and watch terrorists attack our neighbour. We should lend a hand as SADC,” she said.
Mudenda said he had been “encouraged” by the “passion and enthusiasm” with which the motion had been responded to. He reiterated the need for “decisive” action.
“There is need to take proactive action against this terrorist scourge with the urgency it deserves. Terrorism in whatever stature and nature should be nipped in the bud. It is counterproductive, retards progress and hinders the citizenry from focusing on peaceful development,” he argued.
He urged all the organs at SADC Summit level as well as the AU to put in place “concreate measures” to root out the terrorists.
The motion followed a plea in May this year by Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi for regional help in responding to the terrorist attacks.