The European Union must move with “urgency” to step up its support for Mozambique as it battles against a wave of attacks by Islamic insurgents by sending a military training mission to work with local soldiers, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief said on Thursday (6 May).
“We are considering a potential European Union training mission, like the ones that we already have in several African countries,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, told reporters after a meeting of EU defence ministers in Brussels.
“We must respond to Mozambique’s request with a certain sense of urgency,” Borrell said.
That is likely to take several months, say EU officials. Meanwhile, EU ministers have not yet decided to authorise a mission.
“We have to react quicker,” Borrell said. “We have a quite heavy process and we have to accelerate it.”
The South-East African country has been suffering attacks in its northern province of Cabo Delgado for several years, but they came to international attention in March following a major attack on the town of Palma, next to the site of a multi-billion dollar gas development led by French oil giant Total.
Total has declared force majeure and suspended all operations until it can guarantee the security of the site. President Fillipe Nyusi will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on 18 May with security and logistics likely to be high on the agenda.
The Portuguese government, which currently holds the EU’s six month rotating Council presidency, has been pushing for the EU to support Nyusi’s government.
“Portugal has already offered half of the staff” and “sent in advance military structures. It will be integrated into the EU training mission, if we finally agree on that,” said Borrell.
A former Portuguese colony, Mozambique asked the EU for military help late last year.
While requesting EU support, Nyusi has frustrated his neighbours in the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), who fear that the insurgents could launch attacks in their countries, by refusing to accept their repeated offers of a joint military force.
In April, an SADC assessment mission recommended that that Mozambique’s security forces needed immediate support “to combat the threat of terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado” and set out plans for a 3,000-man regional military force to train Mozambique’s soldiers and run operations. The offer also included equipment including submarines, surveillance aircraft and drones.
The SADC is understood to want the EU and United States to provide funding for the mission.
However, Nyusi is believed to be reluctant to accept a leadership role for the Zimbabwe National Army in the force and secured an “indefinite postponement” of an SADC security summit which had been due to be held last week after the regional bloc’s foreign ministers agreed with the proposals made by the assessment mission.
Botswana’s International Affairs minister, Lemogang Kwape, who chairs the SADC committee on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, stated that a regional force under the “collective self-defence, and collective action” clause in the bloc’s 2008 defence pact.
Nyusi has hired Russian and South African private military companies to fight the insurgents alongside local forces but with limited success.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]