The insurgency perpetrated by militia group ‘Al Shabaab’ in Mozambique is top on the agenda at the 13th session of the Malawi-Mozambique Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security.
Secretaries of Defence for the two countries— Bright Kumwembe for Malawi and Casmiro Mueio of Mozambique— confirmed that the insurgency threatens peace and security in the two countries.
“Whenever your neighbour has a situation, one way or the other it affects you. The insurgency in Mozambique is affecting the country and we will discuss the issue at this meeting [in terms of] how best we can eliminate the problem. This is a security issue which cannot be discussed openly but we will discuss and find solutions to the problem,” Kumwembe said.
Speaking through a translator, Mueio said there was need for partnership between Malawi and Mozambique, and even the entire region, to address the situation.
“We are in the process of sharing notes on how best to deal with the problem with our counterparts in Malawi. Our leaders are also in talks throughout the region to try and eliminate the problem.
“Terrorism did not start in Mozambique. This can happen to any country and we don’t know where next after we manage to drive the militias out of Mozambique,” Mueio said.
Extremist and militant Islamic group Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah— which is locally known there as Al Shabaab, although it has no known connections to Al Shabaab of Somalia— has been terrorising Cabo Delgado Province in Mozambique, a distance of about 550 kilometres from the nearest Malawi border.
The group is also widely believed to be involved in criminal activities relating to mining, logging, poaching and contraband.
There are also indications that some of these activities are happening in some parts of Mangochi, Malawi.
Kumwembe confirmed some of these crimes in Namizimu Forest, Mangochi, but said he could not directly link the activities to the insurgency in Mozambique yet.
Meanwhile, People’s Federation for National Peace and Development Executive Director Edward Chaka has said cooperation between Malawi and Mozambique was key to continued stability in the two countries.
Chaka, whose organisation specialises in security issues, said, apart from fighting insurgents, cooperation was also key to tackling what he described as the “twin problem” of terrorism.
“This is not a problem for Mozambique only. We are always affected by what happens in Mozambique. We were affected by the Renamo-Frelimo conflict in Mozambique. We will likely be affected again if the insurgency escalates,” he said.
He, however, said cooperation should go beyond political rhetoric.
“State security institutions have to continually share intelligence information on the movements of terrorists— as well as have joint trainings and capacity exchanges— because this is a regional problem,” Chaka said.