Crisis in Cabo Delgado (Mozambique)

Is a Portuguese-speaking Caliphate coming soon?

Crisis in Cabo Delgado (Mozambique): is a Portuguese-speaking Caliphate coming soon?

It is a tragedy – and a threat! – whose horror is heard with increasing intensity. And despite the grandiloquent sound of death and destruction from Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, European leaders and the so-called international community do not seem to be mobilizing quite enough.

One might say that the war against the invisible enemy, which is the infamous virus that threatens our health right now, is pressing enough to forget the dangers and horrors that only take place far away. Away from us, away from our families and homes. 

However, we could not fail to point out the inconsistency of the basic premisses of the aforementioned political approach: indeed, if there is a mantra that we have been exaustively listening to in the last long months, that is there are no exclusively national phenomena in our global world: menaces that arise at the local level firstly tend particularly quickly to acquire cross-border (and transcontinental) scales.

Having this said, regarding the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, the diagnosis is the same: its expansion possibilities frontier in the world in which we live is almost limitless. Hence, even in the current context of fighting against the pandemic, responsible political, diplomatic and intelligence leaders cannot diminuish, let alone ignore, the danger of the growing presence of Daesh in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. 

We do already know that there is an insurrection taking place in Cabo Delgado, northeast of Mozambique: this is a Mozambican province where time lapse clearly exposes the paradox between the potentialities of the future and the fragilities of the present.

Indeed, Cabo Delgado is currently one of the most economically disadvantaged areas, with the most significant social exclusion indicators, where the present is bad enough for many young people to perceive the grotesque and murderous radical Islamic terrorism as the best possible choice for them. And for the future of their community.

However, Cabo Delgado is, at the very same time, a region considered to have a prosperous future, where significant investment was anticipated, whether from the Mozambican authorities themselves, or even (or mostly) from foreign entities. For example,  the French company “TOTAL” has a large-scale gas pipeline project (Mozambique LNG) in Cabo Delgado, which has suffered several setbacks with the ongoing terrorist insurrection there.

During last summer, the company’s workers were attacked by terrorists in the Mocímboa da Praia area, with eight of them being brutally murdered at the hands of these criminal barbarians. Fact that motivated, in fact, the visit of the company’s President, Arnaud Breillac, to Mozambique, taking this opportunity to meet with the Minister of Natural Resources and Energy, Max Tonela.

As far as we know, the Mozambican central political power has initiated a series of unofficial contacts with companies and even political authorities with qualified interest (direct and even indirect) in the security and stability of Cabo Delgado, guaranteeing them a quick and effective action to defeat the uprising of radical Islamic terrorism in that region. 

In return, the Mozambican authorities have presumably asked for some sort of guarantee from these multinationals corporations laboring in Cabo Delgado that the region will not be abandoned by them. That, in brief words, they will not call off underway investment projects.

The Mozambican government must be part of the solution – and not be part of (another)problem. The international community must remind to the Mozambican political leaders his fundamental duties to their people, respecting, of course, Mozambique’s sovereignty. But sovereignty also means actions against terrorism which kills the mozambicans; there is no sovereignty without security.

The objective of the Mozambican authorities is as logical as it is evident: to settle, through the expression of political will and public “goodwill”, private agents with investment capacity and that guarantee, at the end of the day, employment to Mozambicans living in that area. An eventual exit of the multinationals present there or even the suspension of investments would result in a substantial worsening of the problem: the increase in unemployment could generate a more favorable situation for terrorists, for two reasons.

Firstly, it would help the terrorists to recruit new “soldiers” for their cause, making their “process of persuasion” much easier; secondly, Cabo Delgado would definitely become the “hotspot” of radical Islamic terrorism, dominated by ruthless terrorists, who are eager for territorial control which may serve the cause of this renewed and amphibious Daesh.

As for now, companies will stay, taking into account in their decision Cabo Delgado’s natural resources and potential for future development; however, it is not neither a promise, nor a guarantee of permanence based on solidarity instincts. Rather, it is more a prudent expectation, hoping that the Government of Mozambique will do its part: the heads of companies, and their national governments, expect the Government of Mozambique, led by President Filipe Nyusi (from FRELIMO ), adopt a more resolute action posture in the next (immediate) months.

According to what a source very close to one of the relevant companies laboring in Cabo Delgado told us, the risk of being altruistic, in this region and in this matter, is today extremely high, exceeding any benefits. 

The situation on the ground in Cabo Delgado, contrary to what has been reported among us, is no better. Neither are there any improvements or victories against the expansion of barbaric terrorism: according to the report of someone who is on the ground, with broad responsibilities in combating the rejuvenated and dubious Daesh.

Terrorists have – even today, a trend that does not seem to change in any point in the near future- operational “leverage”, making the “counterinsurrectional” forces job far more difficult on the ground to stop and beat this transformed version of Daesh in Cabo Delgado. Fact that combined with the conditions on the ground, the operational difficulties related to the lack of knowledge of the war theater, inadequacy of the war material, yet highly sophisticated, and the lack of a clear strategic plan – makes the scenario of long lasting triumph over evil and terrorist barbarism still very hazy in a reasonable time horizon.

The conflict that takes place in Cabo Delgado cannot be seen as the eruption of just another Daesh cell in East African territory, nor can it be treated in terms identical to a conflict between opposing interests of african groups (or tribes), aiming at the territorial control of a certain area. In Cabo Delgado, we may have the first geographically African conflict which is not strict politically African in recent decades.  As far as I am concerned, the conflict in Cabo Delgado cannot be resolved neither with surgical measures, only circumstantial, nor with analyzes of particular episodes, of specific events, losing the overall view.

It is necessary, now, to define a strong, well thought out, structured plan, defining the essential lines of its execution, of counterterrorism. Plan that meets the conditions and limitations of the theater of operations; there is an urgent need to make up for time already lost and eliminate the disadvantage in terms of operational knowledge that we have in comparison with this amphibious Daesh (who, in fact, has been identified with the Al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen group).

And do not forget that knowledge of the phenomenon (study and planning) cannot be separated from execution and operational action. This is counterterrorism. This is war against a barbaric enemy – it is not an exercise for philosophical speculation or merely academic lucubrations.

What about Portugal? The fight against the strange transformed Daesh that operates in Cabo Delgado has to be a priority of foreign policy.  Perhaps the Portuguese people have not yet understood quite well, but what is at stake here – among many other realities, all objectionable and horrifying – is the construction of a Caliphate right in the heart of a Portuguese-speaking territory.

A Caliphate in a country that has a privileged relationship with Portugal. A Caliphate in a country where so many Portuguese people live and where the heart of the Portuguese can still be felt. 

However, these observations regarding Portugal are extensible to all the international community, especially to the leader of the free world – The United States of America.

This is an (tragic) opportunity to show that the US are able to set the example of humanitarian assistance and State (re)building in Africa, coordinating and taking into account the best expertise from the European countries which know best the African people and this continent’s geographical reality.