Somali pirates now worry MozambiquePosted: 09/05/2012
By Virginia Comolli, Research Analyst
Petroleum reserves and the discovery of large offshore gas fields have put Mozambique in the news in recent years. But the country is still battling the legacy of prolonged conflict during its 1964-74 war of independence and 1977-1992 civil war. More than half the population lives below the poverty line and the country relies heavily on foreign aid.
Mozambique’s President Armando Guebuza (pictured) also expressed concern yesterday, in the latest IISS Oppenheimer Lecture, that piracy off the coast of Somalia could threaten offshore energy exploration – and his country’s future economic development with it.
‘In Mozambique, we pride ourselves on our endowment of more than 2,700 kilometres of coastline, which has earned us the nickname “pearl of the Indian Ocean” and which is an enviable resource for our social and economic development. We also pride ourselves [on] sharing borders with many landlocked countries, which bring revenue from the services we provide them with to access the sea and international markets.’
But, the president continued, ‘both these advantages have their disadvantages. Both the maritime and land borders are difficult to police.’ As piracy has spread further south towards the Mozambique Channel, a Mozambican vessel had been hijacked by pirates for use as a mother ship. (The United States, South Africa and Tanzania have all agreed to help Mozambique to combat piracy.)
Organised criminals had also exploited porous borders and poorly patrolled coasts to traffic drugs, weapons and human beings in southern Africa. The proceeds from illegal activities often funded violence and corruption. This produced a false sense of economic wellbeing while, in reality, it created a parallel system to legitimate political institutions.
Terrorism in the region was also worrying. ‘Terrorist attacks in countries not far away from our borders … have proved that the African continent is not immune to this type of insidious warfare,’ Guebeza added.
But these were not the only concerns. Climate change had forced people to migrate, becoming a burden for host countries, and had increased competition for food, water and natural resources. Mozambique and Africa as a whole were not unscathed by the global economic crisis either, as this had effected trade and capita flow to the region, as well as tourism and the ability of foreign donors to offer support to countries in need.
These, in Guebuza’s view, were all global challenges requiring a global, multidimensional approach beyond the deployment of navies in the high seas or of soldiers as part of peace-keeping operations. Instead, the president insisted that fostering development was the best way to promote stability.
Foreign involvement in Africa, whether from China or the United States, was welcome, the president said, but foreign participation should not take the form of military presence.