15 June 2018

Mozambique: Cabo Delgado Attacks Continue, Causing Panic

Photo: This Day
(File photo).

Cabo Delgado has seen three further attacks, the opening of a military control centre, and growing complaints about lack of a government response.

On Saturday the defence forces opened an "operational command" in Macomia and Quissanga districts, Interior Minister Basilio Monteiro announced. It is headed by high ranking officers, because of "weaknesses" in the response so far to the insurgency. The police arrested three people alleged to be members of the group, two on the island of Ibo, Monteiro added. (O Pais 11 June; AIM En 10 June)

Police in Nampula province stopped 40 young men from Chalaua, Moma district, who said they were going to Cabo Delgado to work as sesame seed buyers. Nampula provincial police commander Manuel Zandamela said they had been misled with offers of work and were in fact being recruited by militants. (VoA, 7 June) Moma is one of the poorest districts, and any offer of work will be attractive.

Researchers have varied views on the insurgency. Eric Morier-Genoud, who works on the history of politics, religion, war and conflict-resolution in southern Africa, has an article in The Conversation (11 June) "Mozambique’s own version of Boko Haram is tightening its deadly grip". He writes: "some scholars have suggested that the group is part of a broader international Islamic terrorist network. … But I would argue that Mozambique’s new guerrilla movement is primarily a local phenomenon with very specific historical and social dynamics. The movement emerged within a particular religious, social and ethnic group known as the Mwani. They feel they have been marginalised for decades by migration into their area, a lack of economic development, and their neighbours’ political clout." His article is on http://bit.ly/2LQRiAA

Where is the government? asks Pemba bishop, who says attacks are a scream for attention

The "terrible events" in Cabo Delgado "have been noticed internationally but there has not been a clear response from the central government," warns Luiz Fernando Lisboa, Bishop of Pemba, in a pastoral letter last weekend.

We do not know who is this "secret enemy"; it does not have a face and there is no one we can talk to. "The one thing we understand and which is very clear is the expression of their fury, their discontent, and their way of screaming to call attention."

He stresses that these young men are not only "terrorists", but also the children of our families and villages. And he says their attacks are forcing us to ask serious question about "the future we are offering our youth", and about how our natural resources have failed to help our development although they could have "generated a better life for everyone in the province."

Cabo Delgado "has always been one of the poorest provinces in Mozambique [and] in the past years with the discovery of many natural resources, we have become the target of a real invasion of people from different provinces, companies and projects. Our riches could have generated jobs, stability and hope for our youth, if it had been used for development."

Villagers and gas workers leaving; embassy security warnings

Hundreds of panic-stricken people are fleeing coastal villages, going either to towns or to nearby islands, Interior Minister Monteiro admitted last week. Many people carrying big bundles of their possessions are along the road trying to get transport. (Zitamar, Noticias 8 June, Lusa 4 June) They are abandoning crops in the fields before they can be harvested, and Radio Mozambique (7 June) reported fears that the security situation could lead to hunger in Palma.

Gas company Anadarko has suspended at least some of its work, and is evacuating staff from its camp on the Afungi peninsula, in Palma district. The evacuation of construction workers began on 8 June and is by helicopter because the company does not want to risk the road between Afungi and the airstrip at Mocimboa da Praia. Wentworth Resources has had its onshore oil exploration licence extended for a year by the government, because it had to suspend work because it was no longer safe for staff and contractors. (Zitamar 6, 8 June; AIM Eng 12 June)

On 8 June the US embassy in Maputo said "we strongly advise American citizens in the district headquarters of Palma to consider departing the area immediately." On 12 June the UK advised "against all but essential travel to the districts of Palma, Mocimboa de Praia and Macomia in Cabo Delgado province due to an increase in attacks by groups with links to Islamic extremism." On 13 June the French embassy advised against all but urgent travel to Cabo Delgado, due to "terrorist attacks". Canada has advised against "non-essential travel to Cabo Delgado" on 29 May. (embassy websites)

Nevertheless, the chair of the government's National Hydrocarbons Company (ENH), Omar Mitha, told Radio Mocambique that road traffic between Mocimboa da Praia and Palma is circulating normally and he is sure the instability in Cabo Delgado will not affect the resettlement and construction of the gas liquification plant at Afungi. (O Pais,13 June)

Meanwhile Bernardino Raphael, commander general of the police, confirmed that Mozambicans are known to be fighting in Democratic Republic of Congo. He said they had gone to Tanzania looking for work, and been recruited by Islamic militants. (VoA 4 June)

Pemba supermarket incident shows high tension levels

A mark of the tensions in Cabo Delgado was a still not fully explained incident in Pemba Wednesday morning, 13 June. Armed police surrounded the Recheio supermarket in Pemba, after reports that armed robbers had taken staff members and managers hostage. (STV, AIM En, many others 13 June) Police assured reporters that those responsible were common criminals staging a robbery and had no connection with the insurgency affecting parts of the province. At about 10.00 the police threw tear gas into the supermarket and a group of 20 people fled from the building. The police then searched the building and found no robbers. Had the robbers slipped out, posing as Recheio workers? The police detained the supermarket owners for interrogation.

Finally on Wednesday night the police claimed it was all a mistake. (Noticias, AIM En 14 June) A safe was found to have been broken open and a break-in reported to police, saying the robbers might still be in the building. Then a security guard shot into a pile of boxes where he thought robbers were hiding, but instead shot and injured a colleague. Staff had hidden inside, afraid of being shot by either police or the guard.

Tension was already high because there have been a series of armed robberies in Pemba, in which people have been beaten, and panic about the alleged armed robbery paralysed part of Pemba.

Is Erik Prince involved?

Africa Monitor Intelligence (AMI, 17 May) claims that Erik Prince says he will end the Islamic insurgency in 90 days, before the local elections in October. Erik Prince's part-Chinese owned Frontier Services Group (FSG) agreed in December to take half of Ematum, the secret debt fishing company, and rename it Tunamar. He is best known for the private security company Blackwater which provided security in Iraq and killed 14 unarmed civilians in 2007. He is now building links with China and Russia. (see this newsletter 399, 7 Jan, and 410, 3 May)

AMI reported that another Prince company, Dubai-based Lancaster 6 Group (L6G), has formed a joint venture Pro6, half owned by ProIndicus, another secret debt company, and half by L6G, to provide security for the region. It was incorporated on 16 January. The AMI report is quoted in Savana (25 May), which says the project will cost $750 mn. Since Mozambique does not have the money, L6G would lend the money to Mozambique, which would impose a special tax on gas, rubies and diamonds to repay the loan.

The main purpose of Pro6 is to profitably do security for the oil and gas industry, which was also allegedly the main purpose of ProInducus. AMI says L6G claims to already have contracts with ExxonMobil, Anadarko, ENI, Spectrum and Geotechnical Engineering. But Zitamar (12 June) says both ENI and ExxonMobil deny this.

Savana and AMI said the project also depends on giving ProInducus an exclusive contract for coastal security, and that such a contract was agreed in 2014 by President Armando Guebuza and frozen in 2015 by President Filipe Nyusi.

And to stir the pot further, Deutsche Welle (13 June) in reporting this story, speculates: "One question is whether this cycle of violence [in Cabo Delgado] has been purposely orchestrated by individuals or corporations to take advantage of the country’s resources - or is this just another conspiracy theory?"

Meanwhile, Indian Ocean Newsletter [16 March 2018] reported that "80 military vehicles allegedly exported from China were delivered to the port of Maputo on 2 March. The deal is understood to have been facilitated by the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince, through his Hong Kong-registered firm Frontier Services Group (FSG), and the accord was finalised with President Filipe Nyusi and his defence minister Atanasio Salvador Mtumuke."

And the New York Times (19 May) reported that Erik Prince on 3 August 2016, three months before the 2016 election, arranged a meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, and an Israeli specialist in social media who had drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for social media manipulation to help elect Trump. Also at the meeting were an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes, and a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor. The New York Times notes that "The meetings, which have not been reported previously, are the first indication that countries other than Russia may have offered assistance to the Trump campaign in the months before the presidential election."

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