Maputo — Mozambican Defence Minister Atanasio M'tumuke declared on Thursday that it is imperative for Mozambique and Zambia to direct their attentions to the fight against terrorism, before the current terrorist nuclei become “active cells” that can spread throughout southern Africa, putting at risk all socio-economic development initiatives.
M'tumuke launched this challenge during a meeting of the Mozambique-Zambia Joint Defence and Security Commission, which ended on Thursday in the beach resort of Bilene in the southern Mozambican province of Gaza.
M'tumuke told the meeting that terrorism “is currently the most significant threat to national and continental security”.
“The determined fight against terrorist groups in Nigeria, Somalia and countries in north Africa, and the reduction in their financing, has led these extremist groups to seek other regions to undertake their criminal activities”, said the Minister. “In recent years they have sought to install themselves in the Great Lakes region and in southern Africa”.
“Our rich countries are not islands, and are not immune to this phenomenon”, warned M'tumuke. “We must make efforts at the bilateral, regional and international levels in order to contain and neutralise these criminals once and for all, and create mechanisms so that we can cut off the financing and logistics of these groups”.
Doubtless M'tumuke was thinking of the situation in Mocimboa da Praia district, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, where an insurrection by islamic fundamentalists broke out on 5 October last year. Although the terrorist group was driven out of Mocimboa da Praia town within a couple of days, there have subsequently been sporadic ambushes on the Mocimboa roads, and attacks against villages, which have sometimes spilled over into the neighbouring districts of Palma and Nangade.
At the close of the meeting, M'tumuke stressed that religious extremism and computer crimes are concerns on the agenda of both countries.
“We must strengthen our readiness, aware that success in facing these and other ills will only be possible with operational measures and the sharing of information between our defence and security forces”, he said. It was also imperative to improve control on the movements of people across the Mozambique/Zambia border.
For M'tumuke, the meeting was an opportunity where “we have managed to obtain valuable contributions helping us to determine clearly the path the two countries should continue to follow, faced with the challenges imposed on our defence and security forces, arising from the supreme need to defend our motherlands”.
The Zambian delegation to the meeting was led by Defence Minister Davies Chama.