BLANTYRE, MALAWI - A summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has ended in Malawi with a pledge from member states to continue fighting insurgents in Mozambique. SADC sent troops to Mozambique last year after the Islamist radicals began terrorizing residents of northern Cabo Delgado province. Southern African leaders say they've made progress in fighting the insurgents, but security experts note there are still challenges and dialogue should be an option.
In his closing remarks of the summit Wednesday, SADC chairperson and Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera said the summit confirmed the commitment SADC leaders have made to ensure that region remains peaceful, stable and secure.
FILE - Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera makes an acceptance speech after taking over the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Chairmanship, in Lilongwe, Malawi, on Aug. 17, 2021.
He said the summit provided an opportunity to review the mandate of the SADC mission in Mozambique in combating terrorism and acts of violent extremism.
"A particular note in that today we have taken a bold and decisive step to extend the mission in Mozambique so that we are able to consolidate and sustain the gains we have made thus far,' Chakwera said. 'Until victory and peace is secured, we will not relent, we will not regress and we will not retreat."
Chakwera said similar SADC interventions had succeeded in the past.
"We stood together against formidable colonial powers, and we prevailed. We stood together whenever our part of a region was ravaged by natural disasters, and we prevailed,' Chakwera said. 'We stood together to defend our region against COVID-19 pandemic despite our limited resources and we will prevail."
However, security expert Sherriff Kaisi, a former military officer with the Malawi Defense Forces, says there are still challenges in Mozambique and insists dialogue should be an option.
He said the challenge is that SADC are fighting militias who are always in civilian clothes, making them difficult to identify.
"So the heads of state should not only stick to their guns, combating that through the arms, but other avenues like sitting down [with them]. Even rebels are human beings. If you dehumanize them, the war would continue and many people would lose their lives," Kaisi said.
Media reports in Mozambique say almost a million people have been displaced and more than 3,000 civilians killed since conflict started.
In his remarks during the opening of the summit Tuesday, the chairperson for the SADC organ on politics, defense and security cooperation, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, said the situation in Cabo Delgado province has now improved.
He cited the return of internally displaced people to their home areas and provision of humanitarian assistance to the affected families.