Sunday, July 3, 2022

BDF peace keeping mission ignites the need to capacitate the military

Cabo Delgado, Mozambique: The Botswana Defence Force (BDF)’s participation at the peace keeping mission in Mozambique has left quite an impression on their SADC counterparts.

Speaking in a closed briefing attended by Vice President Slumber Tsogwane among other national leaders this week, a South African Defence Force (SADF) colonel could not contain his admiration for the “professionalism and military prowess” displayed by BDF.

However, if there is anything Botswana has learnt from the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), it is the need to strengthen.

While there has been an outcry from those opposed to the ‘hefty’ slice of the national development budget traditionally allocated for military expenditure, challenges raised by those at the forefront of the war against the Al Shabab linked insurgents indicate an army incredibly under resourced.

The decision by Vice President Tsogwane to invite opposition Members of Parliament in Motsamai Motsamai, Onneetse Ramogapi, as well as Real Alternative Party (RAP) leader Gaontebale Mokgosi may have been more strategic than inclusive.

It gave the trio an opportunity to get firsthand information about the struggles faced by the BDF. While the military were careful not to divulge sensitive information that may compromise their security and peace keeping efforts in the Cabo Delgado region, deficiencies in resources like vessels, combat helicopters, and signal intelligence devices (SIGINT) have made life a lot more difficult for the mission.

“We appreciate the report on what is transpiring,” Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) legislator said following one of the many security briefings.

“We assure Honorable Minister (Kagiso) Mmusi that indeed we will support you because we got information on how our soldiers are suffering and we need more resources.” Ramogapi assured the Minister of Defence and Security there would be no resistance should he request for additional military funding.

By his own admission, it was not until he became Defence Minister that Mmusi also began to appreciate the need to capacitate the BDF.

“I shared Batswana’s sentiments that military spending should be scaled down”, Mmusi told Sunday Standard not so long ago.

Like the opposition members who joined his and Vice President Tsogwane’s delegation this week, it was Mozambique that changed his perception about military expenditure.

“Mozambique has taught me the value of a well-trained and well-resourced army.”

Tsogwane alluded to the military challenges when addressing part of the Botswana contingent based in Pemba this week. “We have been briefed about the challenges of availability of mission critical capabilities to facilitate the transition to Scenario 5 and ultimate termination of operations. We are however, encouraged that the regional leadership remains committed to avail those resources despite existing economic challenges.”

President Mokgweetsi Masisi in his capacity as then Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation approved a mandate to deploy the SADC Mission in June 2021. A month later, as part of the first contingent, BDF deployed 301 personnel for a period of six months. The group returned back home early this year (2022) and was replaced by another contingent 359 soldiers as part of Botswana government’s continued efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism to restore law & order as well as enhancing Mozambique Defence Armed Force (FADM)’s operational capability.

To hone the Mozambique army’s capabilities in 2020 SAMIM asked the government of Mozambique to submit their training requirements to guide capacitation of their military and security forces to effectively discharge their mandate of protecting and defending their country.

The BDF consequently trained the Mozambique Defence Force elements in helicopter flying and aircraft maintenance technician courses. This helped fill the gap left by Dyck Advisory Group (DAG) private military contractors which ended its helicopter support for the Mozambique army on April 2021. From there on,  air support fell on Mozambican military helicopters recently acquired from Paramount, and flown by Mozambican pilots trained by Paramount and its partner company, Burnham Global. DAG has used Gazelle, Alouette III and Jet Ranger helicopters in Mozambique.

SAMIM forces have made incredible progress in the Cabo Delgado region of Mozambique. Life  has almost returned to normal in the region’s city of Pemba as well as villages like Mueda which had been taken over by the terrorists before the arrival of SAMIM forces.

The root cause of the conflict in Cabo Delgado has been attributed to the exclusion, marginalization, and poverty of the local communities, who reportedly see no potential gains from the gas US$ 20 billion megaproject in the area. The sectarianism associated with Islamic sects such as Al-Shabaab and Al-Sunnah Wal-Jamâa is another root cause of the attacks, reports have said.

Vice President Tsogwane was accompanied by Ministers Mmusi, Lemogang Kwape, Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Security members John Thite, Tumisang Healy, Ramogapi, and Motsamai. Opposition party RAP leader Mokgosi also attended as well as other senior government including deputy permanent secretary Nkoloi Nkoloi.

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