(By Scott Morgan) - Once again the Jihadist threat is spreading Southward in Africa. While most security specialists have been focused on West Africa and its vast areas of poorly governed or ungoverned spaces the focus is on the Indian Ocean Coast.
Within the last thirty days there have been two attacks that have taken place in Mozambique. The most recent assault which took place on June 5th in Macomia which is located in the Province of Cabo Delgado resulted in the deaths of at least seven people. The attack that occurred in May 2018 in the village of Palma resulted in the beheading of at least 10 people.
There are several questions that beg to be answered. The first question always seems to be why? Local media has reported that the attacks in Mozambique began with the targeting of Police Stations back in October 2017. Since there has been no reports of active Jihadist Activity in the Country there has been a reluctance by the police to determine whether or not the attacks are in fact the actions of Jihadist Elements.
Some reports have asserted that the attackers are in fact members of Al-Shabaab. This is a Jihadist Group that first rose to prominence launching operations in Somalia and in recent years has made its presence felt in Northeastern Kenya. There has been a major international effort to restore a functioning Central Government in Mogadishu for the first time in decades. The effort to restore civil authority to the rest of the Government has forced the group to seek a new base of operations.
So why Mozambique? Is there a community that needs to be defended? Jihadist Groups have used this tactic to address a perceived slight against Muslims in other parts of Africa. Another thing that borne true is their use of trade routes to move across borders with impunity. The ability of one side in a conflict to use terrain to their advantage has proven to be a key factor in preparing actions such as ambushes and other attacks in order to have the other side move to plans which have been drawn up and initiated.
Another factor that could be a play here is a conflict to be exploited. The Most recent Presidential Elections showed that there were cracks within the ruling party RENAMO. The New leadership sought to exclude his previous predecessor from any further dealings with State Activities. Clearly there was an opportunity seen here and the Jihadists have taken advantage of it.
The clock is ticking. How long will it take for Maputo to ask for assistance to deal with this emerging threat? How long until India realizes that its interest in the Natural Gas sector may come under threat? Mozambique is important to both Malawi and Zimbabwe for both Energy supplies and food via rail. There have been no signs of threats against the Railroad sector yet but the most important word in that sentence is the word yet.
The threat to Mozambique is real and most likely in the infancy stage. The Security Forces and the Government are not certain about how to deal with the crisis yet. They are acting like they fear a presence of outsiders that promise to come in and deal with threat but never leave.