Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mozambique: Terrorist influence threatens Mozambique

Presidenrt Armando Guebuza of Mozambique

By Eva Weil
Republished courtesy of IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

LONDON (IDN) – Because of state institutions that are strong enough to maintain order but too weak to prevent subversive operations, and a pervading culture of non-compliance -- verging on corruption -- within law-enforcement agencies, Mozambique is vulnerable to terrorist influence and operations, says a new study.

A case in point is the Jamaican-born Sheik Abdullah el-Faisal, the radical Muslim cleric who was expelled by Kenya in January 2010, travelled by road through Mozambique on his way to Kenya in an effort to avoid detection. El-Faisal is on a list of terror suspects who had contact with (and possibly influenced) Germaine Lindsay, one of the London 7/7 bombers.

It is also believed that he radicalized Richard Reid, the failed 2001 ‘shoe bomber’. El-Faisal is thought to have had contact with (and possibly a role in radicalizing) Umar Farouk, the Nigerian man who attempted to destroy a U.S. airliner in mid-flight on Christmas Day 2009.

El-Faisal was expelled from Botswana for trying to radicalize young Batswana and allegedly attempting to set up a terrorist training camp outside Lobatse.

"The fact that such an individual as El-Faisal has transited through Mozambique is not in itself a threat to Mozambique's security or peace. However, it raises the possibility that others with similar intentions might set up a training camp in Mozambique or attempt to radicalize Muslims in the country," says the paper commissioned by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DfID).

The report is published by Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs), London, argues that a substantial Muslim population, a long 'undersecured' maritime and land border, being part of the 'Swahili coast' (stretching from Somalia down the eastern edge of Africa), an increasing influx of individuals from northeastern Pakistani tribal areas and (peri-)urban areas of Islamabad as well as from Swahili coast countries make Mozambique rather vulnerable. "In particular, the north of the country seems to fit this picture."

However, authors of the report -- Jeremy Astill-Brown and Markus Weimer -- argue that by its very nature this type of formulaic analysis neglects the political dimension. "For instance, it ignores the fact that all faiths present in Mozambique have had a stake and role in the peace settlement as well as the future of the country."

This means, the authors say, a much lower putative risk that parts of the Muslim population might tolerate extremist violence, even if it were to be directed only at ‘foreign’ targets. "Furthermore, given the country's history as a single-party state it is very difficult for any outside force to act without the knowledge and involvement of the ruling party," adds the report.

The reason: Local Muslim leaders are often also FRELIMO (the Liberation Front of Mozambique) party members and rely on the party for their commercial, economic and political interests and success. Similarly, after decades of war, rural populations are extremely vigilant and report any unusual events or activities to their local authorities and thus to FRELIMO.

Not only would it be against the interests of the Muslim community to undermine peace in Mozambique more broadly, but it would also run counter to its direct economic and political interests. Furthermore, it would be contrary to the interests of the ruling party to allow terrorists or fundamentalist forces to gain a foothold (or be perceived to be doing so) in Mozambique -- not least for fear that it might expose some of their other business and political interests to unwelcome scrutiny, the Chatham House report argues.

"However, terrorism, and in particular international efforts to counter it, may have indirect consequences for Mozambique. Whether or not terror camps are hard to set up in Mozambique, and whether or not it is difficult to radicalize Muslims who are also FRELIMO members, does not matter if the perception exists that this is possible and that Mozambique is a potential terrorist staging post," argues the report.


The typical international response to such a perceived threat will have an impact in Mozambique. In other countries along the Swahili coast, U.S.-led counterterrorism efforts have tended to focus solely on 'hard security' means designed to promote Western interests first, rather than on genuinely collaborative security partnerships that seek to promote both local and global security interests.

"The result is usually an imbalance within the security sector that further undermines its legitimacy and credibility with the people whose interests it is supposed to serve -- the citizens of its own country. This issue is particularly pertinent with respect to the possible responses to the perceived or real threats from the sea. Mozambique’s maritime area (578,986 km2 or 70% of its 784,089 km2 land area) and long coastline (2,470 km) are largely ungoverned, permitting all sorts of illicit activity from trafficking to piracy and illegal fishing," the study notes.

A typical response would be to 'harden' the border through increased patrols, surveillance and rapid reaction capabilities. The natural local partner for such a response would be the national coastguard or navy, while the intended beneficiary is as likely to be the safety and welfare of the international community.

While such a response might seem appropriate, focusing only on the 'hard' security dimension (for example naval equipment and special forces capabilities) neglects and ignores some of the other elements and aspects that support the wider security of the maritime environment (and that may also be far more effective).

As a consequence, (i) maritime security is tied to -- and limited by -- the cost of the military operations, and (ii) the negative effects of 'hard' security responses are not mitigated by ‘soft’ security networks that shield and protect human livelihoods.

"Rather than seeing maritime security as a threat that must be tackled by -- often external – military means (requiring a great deal of money), it is far better, and cheaper, to take a more holistic approach to maritime security issues centred on human rather than state security," the report advises.

Such a conceptual shift would take as its guiding principle the need to maximize and develop the national economic benefit that can be derived from the sea. Many of the 'hard security' threats present in the Mozambican sea space are also threats to human security and wider poverty reduction, and are therefore threats to the peace and security of the country.

The report continues: By conceiving of the sea as a complex and diverse economic resource which needs first to be developed and protected and then to be policed, the purpose of maritime security interventions can be moved towards Mozambican national development priorities and away from the narrow interests of international actors.

Maritime resources – including predicted oil and gas finds -- are a substantial current and future source of revenue for the Mozambican state, but they need to be properly regulated and secured. Ultimately this may involve ships, drones and other military hardware in the hands of a capable and well-equipped coastguard or navy, but the rationale is a completely different one from a purely military threat analysis.

The revenue potential of securing tourism and fish stocks alone is significant and would help to make the necessary enforcement capacities more affordable.

There are already moves afoot within Mozambique to take a more holistic view of maritime security and development issues. For instance, the idea of taking an integrated approach to maritime security is being developed at the Higher Institute for International Relations (ISRI), and a new centre on maritime security is being established at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM).

The report titled 'Mozambique: Balancing Development, Politics and Security' looks at:

-- The nature, dynamics and causes of conflict in Mozambique, including its structural and institutional features;

-- The nature of the political settlement, the way in which it is adapting and its current and likely future impact on poverty reduction in Mozambique;

-- The influence of continental, regional and international factors including drug-trafficking and illegal cross-border trade, terrorism and fundamentalism;

-- The principal challenges that threaten peace and security in Mozambique, and may undermine the main principles of the constitution and the commitment of the government to multiparty democracy, human rights and the rule of law;

-- The current and potential impact of conflict and other threats to peace and security on poverty reduction and achievement of PARPA goals, including on aid modalities;

-- The role of external forces, including donor aid modalities, on the factors that influence peace and security in Mozambique; and

-- Approaches to conflict prevention, management and resolution, including how the international donor community in Mozambique may best address conflict in planning for development programmes in democratic governance and other areas.