Arresting the situation in northern Mozambique is of utmost urgency

02Nov 2020
The Guardian
Arresting the situation in northern Mozambique is of utmost urgency

WITH major Western powers grappling with the coronavirus crisis and other agenda on the horizon, like newly unfolding threats in south-east Mediterranean Sea and in the Caucasus with the Nagorno-Karabah flare-up again, it isn’t easy to collect the willpower to deal-

-with crises arising in this or that African country, extending beyond its borders.

That is the impression created by a recent appeal by the French oil giant Total, whose chief executive officer Patrick Pouyanne last month appealed to European states to help Mozambique eliminate an Islamic State franchise in the north. Oil, gas drilling is very much at stake.

On the basis of media reports from Maputo, insurgents have for more than a month occupied a town about 60 kilometers south of the project site for a $20bn investment in offshore gas extraction that the company is putting up.

The company executive pointedly noted that an ISIS enclave is settling down in northern Mozambique and that poses a major problem for stability in East Africa, as without stability such vital economic activity shall suffer an interminable lockdown.

It is a matter that doesn’t just concern the French company but many others as well, including Tanzania where ISIS elements attacked recently.

Obviously, the two neighbouring countries are doing what it takes to coordinate efforts against the group, and especially to reclaim territory that seems to be in the grip of insurgents, once they gun down local government officials, as they tried to do in 2017 in Tanzania’s Coast and Lindi regions.

As Inspector General of Police Simon Sirro noted, it is the same group that was defeated while out to sow instability and it will be defeated again, even as it tries to rebuild a local network.

This effort runs into varying logistical and public confidence problems, and it is unclear if authorities have workable formulas for all of them.

At the regional level, this matter comes under efforts by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) – whose security and intelligence network chiefly of police departments of criminal investigation is also intended for such situations.

But there are other pacts that aren’t globally heralded but have at times been of benefit to countries in the region, for instance the US Africa Command, though some hold it in disdain.

In West Africa the French have led interventions in the likes of Mali, but Nigeria has never looked for external assistance with its Boko Haram insurgency – for a decade. There are no clear cut cooperation formulas about cross-border insurgencies, but cooperation is often vital.

As a matter of fact, if the Mozambican situation is not rapidly resolved and insurgents start showing that they can also conduct strikes into Tanzania if they so wish, our own oil and gas projects in southern regions will be at stake.

Radicals in our midst could then seek – and possibly find – a rope of agitation extended to them, effectively widening the influence of insurgents and ultimately creating investment zones with foreign interests. Hence, the need for enhanced vigilance.

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