The European Union set up a new military mission on Monday to train Mozambican forces trying to stabilize the restive, gas-rich Cabo Delgado province.
Islamist militants have been carrying out brutal attacks in northern Mozambique since 2017. More than 700,000 people have been displaced and some 1.3 million people are in severe humanitarian need, the EU said.
Concretely, EU personnel should share expertise on counter-terrorism and civilian protection efforts, among other things, an EU statement said.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday formally approved the plan, which was agreed in May following a request from the Mozambican government.
The number of personnel foreseen for the mission – initially mandated for two years – is to be determined at a later date.
Portugal, which formerly presided over Mozambique as a colony, has already deployed military personnel for training. Other EU countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, have indicated they will not send troops.
The 16-country intergovernmental Southern African Development Community is also to deploy soldiers to counter the growing number of attacks.
Experts say the Islamist rebellion has its roots in local people’s grievances with the government: The region is rich in gas but inhabitants remain very poor.
French energy company Total, which is involved in a liquid gas project worth almost 17 billion euros (20 billion dollars), withdrew its staff in April following a major attack in the coastal city of Palma that was eventually claimed by the Islamic State group.
The new EU mission is not without controversy: German Christian aid organization Bread for the World said the bloc should focus on pushing for a peace process and mediation rather than military training.
More and more conflict parties are sending troops, the group said ahead of Monday’s meeting, pointing to Rwanda, the United States and Portugal.