SADC is fiddling while Moz burns. It’s a disgrace
The people of the Cabo Delgado region in Mozambique need security, food and medicine, not more meetings
Alex Crawford, the British-born broadcast journalist, is my favourite war correspondent. Who can forget her brave reporting as she tagged along with the rebels seeking to overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 during the infamous Battle for Tripoli? Her live coverage of the rebels storming Gaddafi’s Bab-al-Azizia compound as it fell remains some of the most powerful television journalism I’ve ever witnessed. I recall being glued to Sky News as Crawford, in a helmet and a bulletproof vest, beamed live images of herself surrounded by scores of jubilant rebels armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades, shooting celebratory gunfire towards the sky as the deposed dictator’s once highly secure compound was being looted.
You can imagine my excitement when I saw Crawford inside a Mozambican military helicopter headed towards Palma as the first international journalist to be allowed into the far northern town that was the site of a bloody insurgency attack that claimed scores of lives, including South Africans working in the area. She captured images of dismembered bodies still strewn on the streets of Palma, yet to be collected. Locals displaced by the bone-chilling attack, who hid from the murderous insurgents in the forests, were slowly streaming back into the town. Accompanied by the governor of the Cabo Delgado province, Crawford was mobbed by a crowd desperate for food. It was heartbreaking stuff.
Given the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Cabo Delgado, and the existential threat it poses to stability in Southern Africa, you expect regional leaders to declare this priority number one. On April 8, the presidents of Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi, Tanzania, SA and Zimbabwe held an Extraordinary Double Troika Summit of heads of state and government in response to the extremist action in Palma. Did they come out of there with a plan to beef up security in the area, to address the humanitarian crisis? Not quite. SADC issued a communique in which the leaders “expressed heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the government and people of Mozambique”. They also “expressed their full solidarity with the government and the people of the Republic of Mozambique, and reaffirmed SADC’s continued commitment to contribute towards the efforts to bring about lasting peace and security, as well as reconciliation and development (in Mozambique).”..