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Strengthening the weak spot in Cabo Delgado

Mozambique needs to convince the European Union to renew its military training mission

Today’s front pages in Maputo. Photo credit: Faizal Chauque / Zitamar News

Good afternoon. It is not surprising that the Mozambican government is trying to negotiate a renewal of the military training provided to its troops by the European Union (EU; see below). The training is thought to have been effective and raised the capability of the troops fighting the Islamic State-backed insurgency in Cabo Delgado province. EU-trained troops are assigned to the more demanding quick response units. The training also comes with a considerable aid package attached,  including large amounts of non- lethal equipment such as vehicles. The cash- strapped Mozambican government would be sorry to lose it. 

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However the EU may require some convincing. Officials are thought to feel under-informed about what the troops they trained are up to. This is particularly important because human rights training is a pillar of the training programme. The Mozambican armed forces have in the past been accused of numerous abuses of the local population, including killing civilians, and out of all the forces operating in Cabo Delgado, they are the least trusted by locals. The training mission could help build this trust. Another potential concern is the loss of EU-provided equipment to the insurgents, which has happened before. 

Above all, it is important to build up the strength of the Mozambican armed forces ahead of any withdrawal by the foreign forces assisting in Cabo Delgado, namely the Rwandan forces and the Southern African Development Community's joint force. The insurgents view the Mozambican forces as a weak spot, and seem to prefer preying on them, most recently when several troops were killed in Muidumbe district last week.

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