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Actions Have Consequences

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on April 1, 2021 19:54

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The recent violent insurgency in Mozambique that has left dozens dead, the drawn-out struggle against Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the immigration crisis on the border with Mexico, are all in the news and elicit calls for drastic action. But these are consequences that have been a long time coming.

Islamist insurgents wearing red bandanas, overrunning Mozambique Government buildings, beheading fleeing civilians, shooting up convoys of escaping expatriates - the images are riveting, the reaction predictable. South African military planes flew in to extract surviving expatriates, a good PR exercise. French forces observe from nearby Mayotte. Portuguese soldiers and American Green Berets are offering to train locals. Investors threaten to withdraw unless someone does something. The African Union is pressured to take action. 

The crisis in Mozambique has been a long time coming. News of the oil and gas bonanza attracted massive investment, but also massive corruption. NGOs reported on atrocities by Government forces and Russian and South African military contractors, as well as the nascent Islamist rebellion years ago. Allegations of corruption in the remote Cabo Delgado region go as far back as 2001. The 2020 elections in Mozambique saw the ruling elite riding roughshod over political opposition groups. Observers talk of a 'failed state', but little more than slaps on the wrist greet report after report of misgovernment and assassination.

Investors are apparently more comfortable dealing with stable countries that are partial failures than about democracy. Banks are strangely uninterested in the risks - despite warnings from the IMF Credit Suisse and the Russian VTP Capital rushed into fraudulent deals based on future income from the gas exploitation. Billions were siphoned off and yet nothing happened. The public was left with a choice: Emigrate, accept, or support the resistance, which found support from Islamist groups.

According to experts, this insurgency grew out of people's grievances at marginalization and discrimination, as so often happens in Africa. The result may well be the long-term destabilization of this region, on the margins also of Tanzania and Zimbabwe, and bordering on the important Mozambique Channel sea lane. Military involvement, like an Elastoplast on a broken leg, may just make matters worse.

A similar scenario is playing itself off in Nigeria, where the presence of corrupt officials and an ineffective military pushes people into the arms of Boko Haram. 

And, may I suggest, the flood of illegal immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and elsewhere into the southern USA also has roots in American support for Somoza-like dictators and for the suppression of democratic movements in favor of big corporations with exploitative economies. 

A recent webinar hosted by the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria discussed this situation. An interesting point mentioned was that elections, and governments, may well be legal, in that the letter of the law was satisfied, but they may not be legitimate in the eyes of the public, who may not understand the process, or may feel that it has been rigged against them.

Actions may, and will, have consequences. Short-term economic exploitation of poorer countries and the support for undemocratic forces will result in emigration and in destabilization.

Development of political resilience, setting of examples should be foreign policy priorities. Military deployment should be a distant and temporary option. Poor neighbors are threats, rich ones are markets.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on April 1, 2021 19:54

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Source: Al Jazeera

Armed fighters attacked Palma on March 24, killing dozens and forcing thousands of others to flee their homes.

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