MAPUTO – THE perpetration of coordinated attacks on the oil industry, including the beheading of one worker, indicate a shift in a Mozambique insurgent group’s change of mode of operation, from hit-and-run nightly attacks on villages at night to devastating attacks on convoys in broad daylight.
Recently, the Islamist group known as Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ), unleashed its fighters to carry out attacks on members of the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and on villages on the road between Mocimboa da
Praia and the Afungi peninsula, the company’s liquified natural gas construction site, in the Cabo Delgado Province.
The attacks occurred approximately 20 kilometres from the facility.
The first involved a convoy where six contract personnel sustained injuries. The second attack, which involved the firm Gabriel Couto, contracted to construct an airstrip for the Anadarko project, resulted inone fatality. He was beheaded.
The think-tank, Armed Conflict Location and Events Dataset (ACLED), noted the insurgents’ terror tactics had shifted from night assaults on villages to attacks on convoys in the afternoon, undeterred of being caught.
“And in their tactics, they have placed themselves as a strategic threat to the development goals of the country by targeting the billion-dollar international natural gas exploration projects ongoing in the region,” ACLED stated after the attacks.
According to experts, it is by no coincidence that the upsurge in violence comes at a time Mozambique is on the verge of an economic boom with the discovery of massive oil and gas finds in the Southern African country in
It is believed the rampage is partly in reaction to the awarding of a US$750 million contract for protecting gas fields to a private security consortium. A United States private security company and a Mozambique company linked to government intelligence secured the contract.
Eric Morier-Genoud, a lecturer in African history, wrote that there were economic issues at play.
“In the past few years, massive oil and gas reserves have been discovered. These resources are set to lead to the development of a multibillion-dollar industry in Cabo Delgado, and a rosier future for Mozambique’s economy as a whole,” Morier-Genoud stated.
The attacks have drawn comparisons with the militancy in the Delta region of Nigeria where radicals have over the years carried out attacks on oil facilities in response to allege collusion by government and international companies to exploit resources, with communities not benefitting.
Anadarko, the US-headquartered company, said the security and well-being of its employees were always a top priority hence the construction site remained on lockdown.
The firm could not be drawn to discuss specific security measures.
“We also remain in close contact with government authorities to ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect our workforce. Until we have a full picture of yesterday's events, it would be premature to comment
further,” the company stated.
Basilio Monteiro, Mozambican Interior Minister, announced the deployment Defence and Security Forces units to protect companies from further attacks.
“We are convinced that we will consolidate the security environment,” he said.
Forces have previously been accused of human rights violations in operations to address the terror.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleged security forces were intimidating, detaining, and prosecuting journalists covering the fighting against an armed Islamist group.
The violence has left an estimated 150 people dead and scores kidnapped in recent months. Villages have been looted and burnt down.
Meanwhile, the 11th session of the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security was held in Harare this week with the two countries expressing concern over smuggling of contraband and the influx of irregular migrants, particularly from the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa.
In his welcome and opening remarks, Zimbabwe Ministry of Defence secretary Martin Rushwaya said poaching of elephants and rhinoceros remained major security challenges for the two countries.
The joint permanent commission provides an important platform for information sharing and the formulation of joint strategies that are used to address common security challenges facing Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
“Co-chairperson, apart from our bilateral security challenges, meetings such as this one afford us the opportunity to review regional and continental peace and security issues,” said Rushwaya.
He commended SADC for the vital role it is playing to promote peace in the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“It is our sincere hope that the political processes that are currently unfolding will lead to lasting peace and stability in those countries,” he said.
“It is our sincere hope that the political processes that are currently unfolding will lead to lasting peace and stability in those countries.”
Rushwaya said it was also important that the two countries continued to cooperate in various programmes aimed at strengthening the capacity of defence forces and security services to handle common security challenges.
His Mozambican counterpart, Fernando Farnela Campine, said the event was happening at a time when the regional and international military-political situation invited all sectors involved in defence and security to review existing concepts and models that have been employed to deal with potential threats.
“It becomes more and more apparent that the classic action of conflicts tends to be replaced by conflicts of low intensity, difficult to identify their origin and their ringleaders,” said Campine in Portuguese.
“It is said that these conflicts are characterised by assiduous war actions, in which terrorism, piracy, illegal drug trafficking, the contraband of arms to illegal fishing, amoral crimes, among others, are added to our brother countries.”
Campine said these activities were posing new challenges that imply the permanent need for identification and adoption of joint strategies with a view to their total dismantling.
“In this context, it is necessary to emphasise that the socio-political situation of the Republic of Mozambique and the Republic of Zimbabwe find themselves submerged in a national, regional and international context of subversive exploration of reason and natural resources to accommodate opportunities unrelated to the interests of the two peoples and countries.”
Rushawaya and his counterpart expressed optimism that the three-day meeting will culminate in a lasting solution to the political and security challenges facing the two countries.
– CAJ News/The Herald.