"The perilous decision, to establish foreign mission in Jerusalem, was the most dangerous act."
As the SADC community continues to grapple with the news of terrorism in northern Mozambique, it is startling to note that our government is somehow choosing to keep this as a surreptitious affair.
Let me out rightly say that what most people are demanding is not for the government to declassify sensitive information that has to be restricted by law, but as citizens we have a civic right and duty to know how our government is planning and working to keep us safe.
We can recall that the Tonse Government came on a promise of open and constant engagement with Citizens, therefore, when the government refuses to inform and enlighten us about our own security, it creates unnecessary barriers to effective citizenship.
We are yet to be convinced the reasons behind the secrecy and the covert nature of handling these issues and as to why government has decided to keep quiet without addressing and speaking to the fears of the people.
It's becoming clear that this clandestine approach and behaviour has to an extent fuelled a lot of speculative assumptions that is catching fire in the public domain and at the same time it is exposing a heightened level of ineptitude on the part of government which in turn is a sheer embarrassment on our leaders for their own lack of preparedness.
They could have chosen to stay ahead of the narrative and try to control some of the false paradigms that are building in most people.
In November 2020, on my online show "The Great Conversation," we created a specific conversation to keep Malawians abreast of the security issues facing the Homeland.
I called one of my good friends, an adept international security analyst, Wilson Khembo to review and shed some light on some of the concerning rumors we were getting from Mozambique.
Wilson Khembo has had been writing extensively on security matters with a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge on the subject matter having served as a military officer in the Malawi Defence Force.
Later, Khembo migrated to the UK where he further his specialised studies in mattered of security and he successfully graduated with an MA in Security and Terrorism.
For sometime, he worked as a Coordinator for the UK's government Counterterrorism unit before starting his own private security firm.
Wilson Khembo didn't mince words on his assessment of these concerning issues more especially about the ISIS-linked fighters who were believed to be gaining control of the Cabo Delgado province.
At that time there was enough indicative evidence that clearly pointed at a looming crisis that had potential to spill over to Malawi.
We had reports to ascertain that a sizable number of our young boys were being recruited to join the military insurgency from some parts of Malawi especially the southern region in particular Mangochi, and that after a while they were also crossing back into Malawi.
Our investigation reveals that these activities could be traced back to as far as 2017 and any insinuation suggesting that our government has had a hand in sponsoring terror in Mozambique is totally misplaced and dangerously malicious.
But that's what happens when people are left to figure out things on their own.
This is purely a Mozambican issue, period.
For sometime, there have been claims of abuses by the military in Mozambique and locals had also been complaining that they never benefited from the region's natural gas and mining industries.
What we all need to know is that Jihadists are not only co-opted in as conscripts but in many cases their insurgency finds roots in social economic dissatisfaction and religious grievances.
So any careless move that would draw us into the centre of this never ending saga will likely be a catalyst for making us becoming a next target and this is where we have to be trading carefully with our facts and understanding of these complexities.
Our foreign affairs policies and any diplomatic agenda will have immense implications on our homeland security and other strategic positions.
Consequently what seem to have been true is that our then government (DPP)and the current one (TONSE) share in the same naivety - both seem to have been misled by intelligence on the actual schemes on the ground.
It's that level of dysfunctional intelligence that most likely led to the president's commitment to embrace a foreign policy that would once again make Malawi a pariah state that would suffer isolation and lack a full integrational relationship with our neighbours and other development partners.
We always have to remember that choices have consequences, and our focus should be on how we can best strengthen the interplay and interdependency with other nations plus a smart regional integration.
The perilous decision to establish a foreign mission in Jerusalem, a highly and hotly contested religious site with historical implications was in my view the most dangerous act by any sitting president to have ever exposed Malawi to imminent risk of terrorists attack.
It feeds right into a mindset of a jihadist, and we can not rule out that there are pockets of radicalized religious zealots already hiding amongst us who are simply waiting to be activated by such careless actions.
Secondly, there is a serious issue with our porous boarders and our government needs to focus on the critical role of defining new measures on enforcing border protection.
We need to have a more nuanced look at how the socio-economic activities in some of our border towns and surrounding areas have contributed to the crisis. Our young men are enticed and lured by promises of better jobs by those who come to recruit them.
In my opinion Government has to acquaint with the condition in which things are happening or being done with our border communities, the type of provisions of particular services needed in certain areas, and all transactions of individual ties and forces spanning our frontiers.
There has to be new investments in digital technologies and personnel that would aid a broader social strategical procedure to capture actions of individuals and the mapping of elements and forces such as markets and trade.
Without such interaction or cooperation, government would not be able to exude and enact necessary laws and policies to regulate and control unwanted movements into and out of our country.
The consequential result would be a slippery slope that follows with a dangerous proliferation of weapons and other things like drugs and narcotics, trafficking and other uncontrollable illegal activities.
Tonse government should assess quickly and begin to think fast of what kind of industries they can create to boost the socioeconomic livelihood of those communities affected by these challenges.
As you know most of those recruited are majorly the unemployed.
However one of the bold traits for this government has been their lack of proper consultations and slow response to action.
At this point it is total absurdity for government to even think that they can deal with issues of security alone without citizens' involvement, there has to be a synergy of diversified efforts that will include expanding the civics space in our local communities so that our people are well informed about their responsibilities, rights and duties.
Citizens have to be engaged and equipped to know how to identify, or filter out dangerous pockets of individuals and elements of unwanted substances from among their peers.
Malawi has been a ticking bomb for so long. Any subsequent incompetence in governance combined with a rising number of jobless youth plus a staggering social cultural under-development would be the only catalyst for a major crisis to erupt.
I would like to call on President Chakwera and his Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima, together with their teams including all responsible line ministers of Information, Homeland Security, Foreign Affairs and Civic Education to rethink on how they can best actively form new connected ideas and mastermind a new philosophy for effective leadership with complete critical and ethical decisions to firmly understand and resolve these complex problems.
***Mahara Mhango is a minister of God, preacher and an iconic musician, who made his cut with the legendary Mhango Salvation Singers alongside his siblings. He is currently based in South Bend, City of Indiana in the United States of America.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are solely the opinions of the author and not necessarily shared or in any way affiliated or endorsed by the publisher, Nyasa Times.