Maputo — There is no ban on journalists covering the war against islamist terrorists in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi declared on Monday.
Speaking in the Cabo Delgado provincial capital, Pemba, where he was launching the Integrated Development Agency of the North (ADIN), Nyusi said the doors of Cabo Delgado, including those of the districts hit by terrorist attacks are open to any journalist who wants to work there.
"The northern operational theatre is not closed, and it is not forbidden to anybody from the media. It's open. You can go there", he insisted. But he added "it's a war zone, Unpredictable things can happen, and communication is fundamental".
But Cabo Delgado is open to the media, said Nyusi, just as anywhere else in Mozambique is open.
The President thus sent a clear message to anyone in the defence and security forces who wants to prevent journalists from doing their jobs.
Cabo Delgado has been a dangerous province for journalists. Ibraimo Mbaruco, a journalist on the Palma district community radio, has been missing for over four months. In his last text message to a colleague, he said he was "surrounded by soldiers". The defence and security forces, however, have denied all knowledge of his whereabouts.
The President's green light to journalists came just days after the Portuguese public television station, RTP, broadcast an exclusive report from the main military barracks in Cabo Delgado, in the town of Mueda, thus giving the impression that the authorities would rather speak to foreign journalists than to Mozambican ones.
Nyusi also took the opportunity to differentiate sharply between the war waged by the islamists in Cabo Delgado, and the war that ravaged the country in the 1980s. He said there was "no comparison" between the Cabo Delgado terrorism, and the 16 years of war between the government and Renamo, then a rebel movement supported by the apartheid regime, now the country's main opposition party.
Nyusi regarded the terrorism in Cabo Delgado as a qualitatively new phenomenon. "Terrorism is a new experience for the Mozambican people", he said.
"Let it be clear that that any threat, attack or attempt at destabilization in any part of the country, using any kind of subversion, is an attack against the cohesion and unity of the Mozambican people, and we shall react as a united and indivisible people", he declared.
"Our inalienable priority is our sovereignty", he continued. "We shall not allow any fringe of society to invoke the suffering of the Mozambican people to harvest its group interests. We are aware of our material and historical limitations, but these cannot be confused with a lack of energy. Above all, they cannot be regarded as a lack of willingness to defend ourselves in any part of the national territory against any kind of enemy".
Nyusi stressed that there could be no doubt that Mozambique is facing terrorist aggression, with roots outside Mozambique, but with accomplices inside the country. The early attacks, he recalled, were presented as a mere public order problem, "carried out by criminals with the purpose of looting goods from the population and exploiting, in an uncontrolled way, resources in our subsoil".
But the modus operandi of the raiders had changed, he argued, "and today we know that they are part of an international network whose goal is clearly to attack our State, and which has relied on some internal linkages, which guarantee penetration in the community".
To obtain success, this network recruits young Mozambicans, Nyusi said, "and exploits their poverty, with promises of a better life, allegedly by complying with the precepts of religious faith, leading them to revolt against their own brothers and against the institutions of the State".
Nyusi said the jihadist offensive has caused hundreds of deaths and has displaced about 250,000 people from their homes.
He recognized that, because of the country's financial constraints, some resources which should have been used to boost the welfare of the Mozambican people, had to be invested in defending the country.