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Tehran in Africa: Reflections on Iran-Moroccan Relations – Professor Hussein Solomon

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Tehran in Africa: Reflections on Iran-Moroccan Relations

By Hussein Solomon

Volume 6 (2018), Number 16 (October 2018)

Relations between Rabat and Tehran this past decade could be characterized as `on-again’ and `off-again’. In 2009, Morocco cut-off ties with Iran on the basis of its attempt to sow internal tensions in the north African kingdom. Iran’s cultural attaché used his diplomatic cover to distribute books promoting Shia Islam as well as granting up to 120 scholarships per annum to Moroccan students to study in the Iranian religious city of Qom and to propagate this form of Islam in predominantly Sunni Morocco. A similar development was occurring in neighbouring Algeria where Iranian “diplomats” were engaged in aggressive proselytization and offering scholarships to Algerian youth. Consequently, the number of Shia in Algeria increased from 3,000 in 2013 to 100,000 by the end of 2017. This caused great disquiet inside Algeria’s Ministry of Religious Affairs. To be clear, this is not merely a theological issue but one of great strategic importance. Iranian proselytization, according to Abdurrahman Saidi, an Algerian Member of Parliament, seems to be linked to Tehran’s attempt to create a regional Shia movement called the Maghreb Party.  Thus, developments inside Morocco cannot be separated from broader regional developments.

Diplomatic ties between Morocco and Iran remained severed between 2009 and 2016. Diplomatic ties were restored in December 2016 but this proved short-lived as Rabat once more cut-off its relations with Tehran on 1 May 2018. Once again, the reason for the cession of diplomatic contact was Iran’s attempt to destabilize Morocco. The attempt to destabilize Morocco took many forms. These included Tehran’s offer to protect Morocco’s Shia community from so-called religious discrimination as well as support for the Polisario front via Iran’s proxy – Lebanese Hezbollah. These linkages are well documented. As early as 2016 Hezbollah established a committee to support the “Sahrawi people”. Hezbollah officials then visited theTindouf camps in Algeria to begin providing this support. Members of Polisario then underwent military training by Hezbollah as well started receiving heavy weaponry. Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also assisted in this training of Polisario. Hezbollah, with its experience in tunneling, is also assisting Polisario to build a series of tunnels that would bypass the security wall Morocco had built. It should be noted that Hezbollah has a strong presence in West Africa and is now seeking to establish a presence in North Africa and is seeking to connect its West African and North African proxies as part of a broader regional strategy. This penetration of Iranian and Hezbollah influence is also taking place at a time when the Trump Administration has taken its eye off the ball on the African continent.

The difference between Morocco severing diplomatic ties in 2018 from its 2009 experience, is that it has decided to go on the offensive against Iran regionally and internationally. The Arab Quartet Committee met and after receiving evidence from Rabat condemned Iran’s attempt to “arm and train elements to destabilize Morocco” as well as its attempt to “disrupt security and stability in the region”. Moreover, Gulf countries – including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar endorsed Morocco’s decision to sever diplomatic relations with Tehran. Even Polisario-friendly Algeria was compelled to take action following evidence provided by Rabat regarding the activities of the Iranian embassy’s Cultural Attaché to Algeria, Amir Al-Moussawi, Al-Moussawi, it was alleged, was more powerful than the Iranian ambassador, having direct connections to Ayatollah Khamenei’s strategic advisors. Al-Moussawi subsequently announced his departure from Algiers in a Facebook post. Rabat has also gone on the offensive internationally – specifically lobbying the US to take stronger action against Tehran. The fruits of this strategy became evident in October 2018 with a US House Resolution that criticizes Iran for meddling in North Africa.

It should be noted that Iran and Hezbollah’s malevolent activities in North Africa also undermines the African Union’s (AU) attempts to stabilize this troubled region. Morocco has only recently rejoined the continental body and there are attempts to repair bilateral ties between regional foes Algeria and Morocco. Moreover, there are efforts to settle the thorny Western Sahara question through a plan granting greater autonomy to the region. Tehran’s involvement threatens all this.

The Arab Spring Exposed – Dr. Glen Segell

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The Arab Spring Exposed

By Glen Segell

Volume 6 (2018), Number 15 (September 2018)

Finally, there is a probability that the Arab Spring might be exposed. The impending Battle for Idlib reported as a probability of being the deciding battle for ending the last major rebel stronghold in Syria will be the deciding factor. It may end the Syrian civil war but not in favor of those that started it as part of the Arab Spring wave of protests that the region has felt since December 2010.  The question “Why” is answered by the answer “The theory underestimates Political Islam.”

The significance of the Arab Spring and indeed the Syrian civil war is to grasp that disorganized urban liberalism cannot compete with the politics of tribe let alone Islamism. Even if President Asad’s forces manage to win the Battle for Idlib it doesn’t mean that President Asad will be in control of Syria. Neither will be the rebels that started it seeking individual freedoms. The underlying causes for the Syrian civil war remain and this poses an ever-constant threat for all.

The underlying causes for the Arab Spring also remain. Turning back to December 17, 2010 the first day of the Arab Spring shows this. Poverty, lack of rights and the use of force to suppress expression are all matches that could spark the flames of revolution and anarchy. Then a Tunisian fruit vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after the authorities confiscated his goods and beat him. The incident sparked an uprising that within weeks would topple Tunisia’s venal autocracy. Protests spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Despots from Morocco to Mesopotamia felt the heat of popular anger. Many couldn’t withstand it.

Consequently, the Middle East and North Africa are now less stable, and less hopeful, than it was before. Such instability poses a threat because it introduces the probability of instant anarchy, chaos and war with no clear indication of who will emerge as governance. At the start of the Arab Spring democracy thirsty denim-clad, smartphone-wielding young Arab liberals were projected across social media and TV screens as being the new hopeful leaders of the Middle East and North Africa.

The terror of 9/11 and the ensuing bad image of Islam were on the way out of the door. However, this was short lived.Once the dictators fell, the liberals were quickly sidelined as Islamists and remnants of the old order battled for dominance. Knife-wielding jihadist and refugees rose to global prominence as the image of Middle East and North Africa in turmoil.

The quest for democracy left each Arab Spring country worse off than, each in its own way. Dreams turned into nightmares. Although Tunisia has adopted a secular constitution it is also the world’s top exporter of fighters for the Islamic State. Egypt is once more ruled by the officer corps through repressive means. Yemen and Libya have ceased to exist as unified states. Then there is Syria, the regions battle ground for proxy conflict. In hindsight it is clear what happened. By crushing or co-opting opponents, secular autocrats empowered Islamist outfits that were the only remaining channel for dissent.

The lesson learnt is that simply removing a dictator has no connection to Islamism’s attraction. While secular Arab nationalism is state centric, the Islamists’ agency and inherent ideological drive is not state centric. So, while leaderless, social-media-driven protest is effective against unpopular regimes it is insufficient for winning power and for effective governance to provide essential services.

The Arab Spring was a quest for individual freedoms that is political Islam which is more attuned to the contest for geopolitical mastery. There will still be a quest for individual freedom, however probably it will only be a dream. The Arab Spring has been a setback in the quest for such freedom; partly to blame because of Western powers. For example, in Libya, the U.S. removed Moammar Gadhafi but abandoned the country with few viable institutions to its tribal furies. In Syria, American President Obama watched impassively as the Iran-backed tyrant killed and gassed his own people.

Wither the Arab Spring for individual freedoms after the Battle for Idlib to end the Syrian civil war because it is a dream and not a practicality. The Syrian civil war has highlighted that intellectuals and activists don’t dare imagine another uprising because they know that, given an opening, large numbers of Arabs will demand Shariah law, repression of women, and ethnic and sectarian revenge.

In short, the opposite of the Arab Spring quest. The millions that have fled the Arab Spring countries to other parts of the region are rendering their own judgment about the state of Arab civilization. Perhaps that’s an unfair judgment, but it follows my observations about an Islamist political culture be in the Middle East or North Africa that prizes honor, tribe and piety above reason and compromise.

Contextualizing Shiah-Sunni Relations in South Africa in the light of the Verulam Mosque attacks of 10 May 2018 – Dr MAE (Ashraf) Dockrat

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Contextualizing Shiah-Sunni Relations in South Africa in the light of the Verulam Mosque attacks of 10 May 2018

By Dr MAE (Ashraf) Dockrat

University of Johannesburg

Volume 6 (2018), Number 14 (September 2018)

Muslims arrived on South African in five waves. There is evidence that some arrived as sailors and hands on the first ships of the Dutch and Portuguese colonialists. Indonesian-Javanese political prisoners who refused to be yoked by the colonialists came as political prisoners and the mosques and their graves at the Cape are evidence to this. There was a subsequent influx of indentured laborers to Durban/Natal in the late 18th/early 19th centuries. They provided the work force on the sugar-cane plantations there. A fourth wave of mainly Gujerati traders came as paid passengers on ships and settled in the then Natal and Transvaal. Up to this point these diverse ethnic groups were all Sunni Muslims and were affiliated with Sunni theological bodies. The trader communities did include a negligible amount of a couple of Shiah Ismaili Khojas. With the collapse of apartheid, the mid 90’s saw a fifth wave of settlers in South Africa. These were people from a range of countries with the bulk of them from the Indian Subcontinent. Up to this time the Muslim population were and remain predominantly Sunni.

In the 1970’s the isolated apartheid state was ever keener to establish contacts with international partners. Iran, under the Pahlavi Shah had a very good relationship with the RSA government of the day. The Centre for Islamic Studies, under the chairmanship of Professor Cobus Naude at the Broederbond established Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) facilitated for better understanding of Muslims and the politics of the Middle-East. The Centre would publish a newsletter “Midde-Ooste in die Nuus” (Middle East in the News) regularly. This was a very important source of information for the State’s foreign affairs and international relations departments. As relationships with Iran warmed, the Iranian government made economic alliances where petrol and SASOL oil-from-coal technology was shared. The Republic of South Africa was also guaranteed a good supply of crude oil. Cultural exchanges were also facilitated through the Embassy of Iran in Pretoria. The local South African Muslim community, many of whom had welcomed Ayatollah Khoemeini’s 1979 Iranian Revolution, were taken on 7-10 day visits to Iran. Meanwhile, the religious leaders of the Sunni majority had soon after the 1979 revolution began a campaign to warn its congregants of “Shiah Meance” and “Shiah Threat”. This is evident from the publications of the main Sunni theological bodies of the time. For them the cleric’s coup was no more than a “mirage in Iran” and they cautioned against the gaping theological differences through widespread pamphlets and booklets which were published on behalf of the “Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamah” (People of the Sunnah and the Prophet’s Companions). The Shiah, it was pointed out, did not look at the Prophet’s Companions with the veneration that they deserved and saw the first three Caliphs who succeeded him as usurpers of the hereditary right of Ali, the son in law and cousin of the Prophet (hence ahl al-bayt, the People of the Prophetic Household).

Travelogues of the time with titles such as,“9 Days in Iran”, by MS Banoo (1983) and a similar publication, “Towards Understanding Iran Today”, by Fatima Meer reflect opposite sides of the spectrum in the South African Muslim community. Banoo, the conservative theologian, was critical of the newly founded Iranian state whereas Meer expressed her delight by what she had seen on her travels. The MYM (Muslim Youth Movement), a more liberal Muslim grouping who had come under the influence of Maulana Maududi (d.1979), a Pakistani revivalist scholar, were evidently quite excited with the prospect of a Muslim state in Iran. The new Iranian dispensation of velayet-e-faqih (the leadership of the jurist-consult) and the widespread reform appealed to their sensibilities. This is reflected in their euphoria at the time.

The Jamiatul Ulama Transvaal (Council of Muslim Theologians) printed books countering what they perceived to be a serious threat to the belief system of their congregants. This then is the root of the Sunni-Shiah conflict in South Africa.

In 1995 Hojjatol islam Mohammed Sharif Mahdavi was appointed as the Iranian ambassador to South Africa. He actively participated on public platforms and perhaps due to his training clearly displayed a proselytizing zeal. Another important shiah cleric Imam Maulana Aftab Haider served as a missionary and established a center to cater for the religious needs of the Shiah community. Haider and his group not only saw to the pastoral needs of his community but also began actively propagating Shia Islam amongst the mostly lower class black and middle class Indian communities. In the mid-1990’s South Africa opened its doors to foreign nationals. Pakistani, Ithna Ashari (Twelver) Shiahs entered the Muslim community. They strengthened the public profile of the religion with their Karbala festivals and established Imam baras for their worship. Local Indian Muslims maintain their own expression of Shiasm and became more active on social media platforms. At about this time an Iraqi Sufi Shiah, Shaykh Fadlallah Heiri made South Africa his home. His preaching appealed to the affluent Indian business community and he established the Rasooli Centre in Pretoria. It is clear that distinctions based on class and origin prevail in the Shiah community.

The Ahlus Sunnah ulama (theologians) realized the growing threat from the Shiah and organisations of various persuasions were formed. The most vocal of these being the Ahlus Sunnah Defence League (ADL). The debate of excommunication (takfir) is what distinguishes some anti-Shiah lobby groups from others. Some,such as the Port Elizabeth based Maulana AS Desai in his periodical publication, The Majlis, adamantly insist that all Ithna Ashari Shiah are kafir (non-believers) while others, including the ADL, hold that only those who blatantly deny some of the core tenants of the dogma are not in the pale of Islam. Nevertheless they see all Shiah as threats. Shiah polemic has also been equally vitriolic especially in their slander against the Prophet’s wife Aisha and the first three caliphs. Souring relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the international scene means that local groups on both sides of the divide have enough theological arguments to buttress their positions. The Shiah and the Sunni camp accuse one another of hate speech.

Against this background South Africans were shocked when on 10 May 2018 there was a bloody attack on the Shia Imam Hussain mosque in Verulam, north of Durban. While all theological bodies condemned the dastardly act the local Tribune tabloid of 13 May quoted the head of the Shiahs in South Africa, Haideras saying that the attack “came in the wake of hate speech against the Shia community that has continued for years, and escalated to unparalleled levels recently.” The newspaper reported that: “The attack in which an imam had his throat slit and two others were stabbed repeatedly was allegedly the work of men who had been surveying the mosque with the intention of killing its religious leaders.”

For some months before this, Imam Rashied Omar of the Claremont Main Road Mosque proposed that South African Muslims bind themselves to a document called the“Cape Accord”. This document, meant to encourage peace and unity and eradicate extremism and based on the Amman Accord, was signed in Cape Town by some Islamic leaders. Included in this accord is a section which appealed to communities “to be tolerant of the differences between Muslims and not escalate intra-faith hostilities”. The recent Sunni-Shiah violence made this accord all the more relevant for those who have championed that it should be ratified. However the Cape Accord has not been welcomed by all, and differing opinions about it have caused further divisions. After a number of key signatories withdrew their support many now see it as a dismal failure.

That the Verulam mosque attack is a turning point in the future of Sunni-Shiah relationships in the community is questionable.  What seems to be the case is that it marks just another event in a long standing battle.

“Can we ever actually prevent terrorism?” – Dr. Anneli Botha

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“Can we ever actually prevent terrorism?”

By Anneli Botha

Volume 6 (2018), Number 13 (August 2018)

When receiving peer review feedback on a recent policy document I wrote, I was struck by the question posed by one of the reviewers, now only starting her career: ‘Can we ever actually prevent terrorism?’ This is in reference to counterterrorism presented as a negative, while preventing violent extremism (PVE) is presented as the absolute positive. Getting over the initial disbelief in the reviewer not being able to see the connection between PVE and counterterrorism (CT), I started to think how far we’ve come since 9/11, only seventeen years ago (not disregarding all the valuable lessons before this deciding event in history):

From introducing new terminology to describe old practices and tactics, for example referring to the decentralized nature of terrorist organisations and their networks as ‘New Terrorism’ while the Anarchist in the late 1800s managed to operate in a similar fashion spreading its ideology not through the internet and social media, but through immigration from Europe to the United States (opening a new debate on Western fears surrounding immigration – however not to be discussed in this commentary).

Back to the ‘latest strategies’ in preventing terrorism. For example, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 as reflected in UN Resolution 1373, the prevailing thought was that ‘draining the swamp’ would be achieved through introducing initiatives to prevent the financing of terrorism. In other words, should terrorists not have access to funds, those organisations would cease to exist. This ‘flawed’ strategy was justified in reference to examples of earlier cases where money was transferred from the main organisation to the execution cell: flawed, not because it was not important to address weaknesses in the legal international financial system, but flawed in thinking that by not being able to receive money through legal means would cause terrorist organisations to end their existence, disregarding the role ideology and the reasons why the organisation exists play. This is not even mentioning the reasons individuals join, play in driving terrorism. Therefore, seeing terrorism not only as a tactic, but also a form of communication, the best strategy preventing and countering it is to adopt a holistic approach that includes the criminal justice system, the military when confronted with an insurgency, as well as non-conventional actors in this debate. It would be wise to include governmental departments such as education, urban and rural development etc. as well as non-state actors, for example the broader civil society, non-governmental organisations, etc.

In the middle is a group of young analysts and ‘experts’ getting swept away in the ‘new’ craze of preventing and to a lesser extent countering violent extremism (P/CVE). I refer to this wave as “The new big business” considering the amount of donor money spent addressing domestic manifestations of radicalisation into violent organisations (especially Islamic State during the peak of the era of foreign fighters) and in support of other countries experiencing the devastating consequences of terrorism – and yes, violent extremism manifests in terrorism. What is wrong with this ‘industry’? In a nutshell the following: The temptation to introduce or rather ‘sell’ programs to prevent individuals from joining terrorist organisations (despite preference to rather refer to violent extremist organisations) without understanding why people resort to these organisations in the first place. Secondly, the tendency to see social and community development programs through the PVE and CVE (to a lesser extent) lens although the majority of recipients in the first place were never at risk to be radicalized and then claiming success that cannot be empirically tested. I am not implying that these initiatives do not play a positive role within these communities, but rather that history proved over-and-over again that only a small minority of individuals join terrorist organisations and continue to execute acts of terrorism. Reaching these individuals that are truly at risk requires a very different approach than what is commonly used. For example, when individuals that had been radicalized into joining al-Shabaab in Kenya and Somalia and Islamic State in West Africa (more commonly known as Boko Haram) in Nigeria were asked if they were aware of initiatives to prevent people from joining, a minority answered in the affirmative. When those who had been aware were asked why these initiatives were not successful, it became apparent that not trusting those who led these initiatives and the fact that the organisation and their friends were more convincing introduced some new concerns associated with the PVE ‘industry’.

Returning to the initial question: ‘Can we ever prevent terrorism’ my answer is: If we have any doubt, what are we doing and why are we doing what we’re doing? Why are we studying radicalisation and terrorism for any reason other than to identify new trends and weaknesses in an attempt to get ahead of the threat. A threat that manifests differently over continents, within continents and between countries sharing a common border in an attempt to prevent the manifestation of violent extremism in the form of acts of terrorism. Yes, we can prevent terrorism if we first understand the why, who and how on an individual level and develop counter and preventative strategies to provide answers to these questions, tailored to each organisation. Secondly, by equipping the state and its security forces to develop and implement initiatives aimed at addressing the short-term threat, while considering the medium- and long-term consequences of these short-term initiatives. Thirdly, by investing in the intelligence capabilities of the state and structures to facilitate the timely sharing of intelligence within and between countries. Lastly, and probably the most important, to appreciate and recognize history by learning from lessons in the past and those who came before us who have the experience that money cannot buy.

Mali: Elections Amidst the Chaos – Professor Hussein Solomon

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Mali: Elections Amidst the Chaos

By Hussein Solomon

Volume 6 (2018), Number 12 (August 2018)

On 29 July 2018, Mali began its electoral process that the international community was hoping would lead to stabilize the strife-torn West African State. Incumbent President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and 24 other candidates were vying for the mantle of leadership in this poverty-stricken state. Whilst free and fair elections are imperative for the legitimacy it confers on governance, there is reason to question the electoral process in Mali. Violence has plagued the elections casting doubt on any electoral outcome. For instance, violence prevented voting from taking place at 644 polling stations. Another 4,000 polling stations were disrupted by armed attackers. Moreover, one of the main challengers to President Keita is Soumaila Cisse, who has alleged possible fraud, pointing out the existence of two electoral lists – the physical voter list and the online variant – and hundreds of fake polling stations. Whoever ultimately wins the poll, the reality is that the credibility of the poll has already been compromised.

Whilst a second round of the elections is to take place as a result of a run-off, whoever is named President confronts an unenviable task of securing peace and economic development and national reconciliation. Consider the following statistic: Mali ranks a miserable 175th on the United Nations Human Development Index. In 2018, for instance, one million Malians will require emergency food assistance, a 55% increase on the previous year. The hellish existence its citizens have confronted, has resulted in their alienation from the political establishment. According to Afrobarometer surveys, the number of people who believe that the government is effective in meeting their basic needs has declined from 41 to 21 percent between 2014 and 2017. This, in turn, has contributed to low voter turnouts during elections and consequently scant legitimacy to incumbent governments. One indication of this is that in the capital, Bamako, a staggering 60 percent of residents did not pick up their voter cards, allowing them to vote in the elections. Restoring trust, renewing the social contract between government and citizens is essential for the future stability of Mali.

The second challenge confronting the eventual winner of the poll is the fact that post-independent Mali has never displayed inclusive governance. Ethnic tensions, which have been exploited by militants like the Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal-Muslimeen (JNIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, has escalated in recent years. These ethnic tensions are particularly evident between the nomadic Tuaregs in the north and the sedentary and politically dominant Mande in the south. Neither is this the only ethnic fault line existing. In July 2018, clashes enveloped central Mali between Dogon and Fulani herders. Ethnic/racial tensions also flared between Arab, Tuareg and black communities in Timbuktu. Local reconciliation efforts coupled with broader nation-building initiatives are imperative. Whilst there was a welcomed initiative to deal with Tuareg grievances in the form of the 2015 Algiers Accord for Peace and Reconciliation, which allows for greater local autonomy and economic development, implementation has been exceedingly slow. Amongst some Tuareg, too, there was concern, that this was an attempt at co-option of political elites amongst Tuaregs as opposed to a genuine attempt to devolve real political and economic powers to marginalized northern communities.

Third, and a concomitant of the aforementioned, the security situation remains dire despite the presence of the UN Mission (MINUMSA), the Sahel G5 Joint Force and the French Operation Barkhane. One indicator of the calamitous security situation lay in the fact that despite these foreign forces, the writ of the central government has been contracting geographically. In 2017, for instance, only a measly 20 percent of sub-prefects in the north were present at their offices due to fear of being attacked. The government’s own over-reaction to attacks by militant groups has also served as a potent recruitment tool. For instance, Malian military units and its affiliated ethnic militias actions have resulted in the killing of civilians.

Given Mali’s strategic importance, given the crisis of leadership inside the country and the ineffectiveness of an African Union response, what is desperately needed is leadership of the international community. Unfortunately, with the Trump administration seeking to untangle Washington from Africa, thereby displaying no concept of national interest, no leadership is emanating from the United States.

The Terrorist Threat in Northern Mozambique – Tertius M Jacobs

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The Terrorist Threat in Northern Mozambique

By Tertius M Jacobs

Volume 6 (2018), Number 11 (July 2018)

Introduction

On the 5th of October 2017, a group of approximately 30 men attacked three police stations in the small town of Mocímboa da Praia in the northern-most province of Cabo Delgado, about 30 km from the Tanzania border. Although these are believed to be the first Islamic attacks in Mozambique, causing shock and bewilderment throughout the country, it was no surprise to members of the Province’s Islamic Council. For several years council members had been warning authorities about a fundamentalist group, and the resulting threat to peace posed by its extremist ideology. Since the first attacks, there have been numerous raids on residents and security forces in the area bordering Tanzania. The Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium has counted a total of 20 attacks by extremist elements since the beginning of 2018 up to the end of April 2018. A testament to the severity of this issue is reflected in the United States embassy advising citizens to leave the province and Britain advising against travelling to the area.

The emergence of an armed group, known as ‘al-Shabaab’, presents a significant risk for the Mozambican socio-political and economic landscapes, and even more so for national security. The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief assessment of the terrorist threat in northern Mozambique using traditional intelligence analysis techniques. For this purpose, this brief will utilise The Political Risk Services (PRS) Risk model, focusing on the risk factor of Turmoil.

The PRS Risk Model

PRS is one of the most widely accepted systems of completely independent political risk forecasting. Whilst its risk model is thorough and well structured, this brief will only be focusing on the Turmoil risk factor to assess terrorism in northern Mozambique.Turmoil, according to the PRS model, includes large-scale protests, general strikes, demonstrations, riots, guerrilla warfare, cross-border war, civil war and most important for this brief, terrorism. It also includes turmoil caused by a government’s reaction to unrest which is a crucial aspect regarding the situation in northern Mozambique.

Due to the action-reaction nature of Turmoil, it is useful to divide this factor into two sections: the actions and motivations for terrorist attacks, and the government’s reaction to this threat.

Terrorism in Mozambique

To grasp the terror activities in Mozambique and the risk it may entail for either socio-political or political-economic landscapes, it is necessary to identify possible motivations for the increase of terror attacks.

Martin Ewi, a regional security analyst of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria said that the so-called ‘al-Shabab’ group has engaged in attacks every now and then since October 2017 and that the ISS currently has been unable to pin an underlying ideology or find evident links with the Al-Shabab or any other terrorist groups. Ewi further argues that the northern parts of Mozambique claim to be marginalized with widespread poverty many believe to be inflicted by the government. Although Ewi emphasises that the ISS does not factually know what is going on, it would appear as if though ‘al-Shabab’ is partly comprised of disgruntled Muslims seeking to exploit the conflict similar to that of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Mali.

According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the terrorist group known locally both as ‘al-Shabab’ (the youth) and as ‘Swahili Sunnah (the Swahili path) appears to be attracting new recruits. Pirio et al. sheds light on the motivations behind this growing terrorist group by arguing that although the group presents no evident ties to international jihadism, the group’s leadership appears to be inspired by it, holding similar aims and goals, such as the establishment of an Islamic state following Sharia and the eschewing of the government’s secular education system. Considerable social and economic stressors in the Cabo Delgado Province coincide with Ewi’s proposed motivations and goes a long way to explain why a jihadist group appears attractive to the youth of the area. Unemployed young men in this region often find themselves unable to pay bridewealth to secure a wife. These youths end up in a permanent state of seeking to become an adult in their traditional culture. Armed groups preaching justice through the establishment of an Islamic state resonates with the needs of these young men and result in easy recruits for militias. Further contributing to the issue is an increase in alleged human rights abuses by the UK-based Gemfields – whose concession in the Montepuez  District is believed to contain 40% of the world’s supply of rubies. After Leigh Day, a British law firm, investigated reports of human rights abuses in Cabo Delgado in 2017 it was discovered that both company security forces and Mozambican police were complicit in the abuses that peaked in 2014. Exacerbating the issue further, the general region also has the highest illiteracy rate in Mozambique, an influential organised crime network operating in the region, and cultural tensions also exist between the largest ethnic group and smaller groups, comprised predominantly of Muslims. All the above-mentioned driving forces result in a part of the population desperately in need of hope and a better life, and simultaneously vulnerable to the idea of an Islamic state promising to cater for their needs and interests.

The Mozambican government

Regardless of the origin of the militants, the attacks are of grave concern for the Mozambican government as Mocímboa da Praia is located a mere 80 kilometres from a planned site for two liquefied natural gas terminals which multinational energy companies plan to build. Continued terror attacks in the region present severe operational risks and may significantly undermine development in the region.

Although Mozambique has seen its fair share of violence in the past 30 years, the Mozambique government is faced with a new threat – the evolution of extremism. The government’s response has been met with mixed perceptions, though at present it seems to be pouring water onto an oil fire. In May 2017, authorities closed two mosques in Mocímboa da Praia suspecting the preaching of a fundamentalist and distorted version of Islam. In July of the same year, the Mozambican police allegedly abused, humiliated and tortured artisanal miners who had been arrested for mining without permits near the Montepuez ruby mine. In October of that year, the first terror attack took place.

The Mozambique government forces are generally poorly trained, ill-disciplined and lack the necessary equipment to effectively deal with this threat. Follow-up operations in response to militant attacks were perceived as hard-handed, further alienating the population and spurring on pre-existing feelings of marginalisation among the Muslim communities in northern Mozambique. Contemporary history professor at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Yussuf Adam, states that there are massive human rights violations on both the militants’ and the Mozambican defence force’s sides. Adam attributes the militants’ impulse to attack and murder to the state who reacts with violence – killing, flaying, burning and closing mosques. From the relationship between terrorists and security forces in Mozambique, a growing cycle of grievance and revenge is developing. Such an action-reaction relationship creates a conducive environment for violent extremism to evolve and grow into significant political risks in the region.

Interpretation and Conclusion

Terrorism in Mozambique’s northern region currently resides in a developing phase. A lot of driving forces are present, suggesting that the group ‘al-Shabab’ has the potential to evolve into a threat similar to Boko Haram in Nigeria. The reaction of the Mozambican government is currently working against peace efforts and is, in reality, further encouraging young Muslims from marginalised areas to join the violent extremist movement.

The PRS Risk model defines a Moderate Risk under Turmoil as “countries in which international business can sometimes be affected by occasional riots, acts of terrorism, and significant levels of labour unrest or other kinds of discontent”. Whereas a High Risk is defined as “countries [experiencing] levels of violence or potential violence that could seriously affect international business”.

At present, the situation in Mozambique presents a moderate risk, as terrorist attacks appear to target governmental targets and vulnerable civilians in areas close to international businesses. The current trend may occasionally affect business but does not, at the moment, appear to seriously intrude on international business.

However, as government and private security forces continue to clash with locals and especially those feeling marginalised or subscribing to the distorted versions of Islam, a high probability exists for a terrorist group, such as ‘al-Shabab’, to become more organised and identify targets that will have a much more significant impact on the state, such as international businesses. If the current trend continues, the Turmoil factor proposed by the PRS will very soon be perceived as a high risk for international businesses.

 

About the Author:

Tertius Mynhardt Jacobs is a master’s student currently finishing his final year of Political Studies at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein. His master’s dissertation revolves around Political Risk Analysis with Botswana as a case study. Fascination with the field of Political Risk Analysis fuels a desire to analyse new and interesting cases of political risk, particularly on the African continent.

 

 

 

Hopeful Signs of a More Positive Relationship Between the Arab World and Africa – Professor Hussein Solomon

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Hopeful Signs of a More Positive Relationship Between the Arab World and Africa

By Hussein Solomon

Volume 6 (2018), Number 10 (June 2018)

Undoubtedly, Arab countries and those in the Gulf in particular have cast a long and malevolent shadow over the African continent – from the Arab slave trade of Africans to the spread of extremist Islam amongst Africans. However, there are signs that this may be changing for the better on account of positive changes occurring inside these Arab countries. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, addressing a Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh in October 2017 made clear that, “We want… a moderate Islam … open to all religions … and people”. Words were followed by action. His father, King Salman, established a new authority to scrutinize hadith – accounts of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad – which lend themselves to a violent interpretation. The Saudi government which vets clerics in 70,000 mosques has dismissed those clerics which espoused radicalism.

These positive changes will also have an impact further afield. Riyadh has established two bodies – the Global Centre for Combating Extremist Ideology and the Ideological Warfare Centre – which seek to combat, expose and refute extremist versions of the faith. The Saudi-funded Muslim World League also plans to combat extremist forms of Islam globally. Beyond the ideological struggle, Saudi Arabia has also contributed US $100 million to the Sahel G5 force – consisting of the armies of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad – combating the various Islamist militant operating on their territory. Saudi Arabia’s neighbor, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is also assisting the Sahel G-5 force by funding a “war school” in Mauritania for member countries to train their respective forces. Such joint training, it is hoped will result in better coordination between the respective armed forces in the Sahel. At the same time, a caveat is in order here. It is too early to say, whether these reforms will achieve success given the internal opposition to Prince Salman following his sacking the powerful Minister of Interior Prince Muhammad bin Nayef and the commander the National Guard of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah. The recent arrest of feminist activists also suggests that the regime, or elements within it, may not be as committed to an entire reform of their conservative brand of Islam. Neither did the detention of Prince Walid bin Talal in November 2017 in an “anti-corruption” drive endear the Crown Prince to his disgruntled brothers and cousins who complain of the humiliation of senior princes. Nevertheless, whilst headwinds do exist, the fact that these reforms are being undertaken is both remarkable and positive.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco has also initiated various projects whose impact might well reverse the Islamist tide. In 2015, the king established the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines and Morchidates. This is the first religious institution in the Arab world that includes the training of female religious leaders (morchidates) and aims to promote a moderate Islam. The fact that King Mohammed VI is not only chairman of the Al Quds (Jerusalem) Committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation but is also a direct descendent of the Prophet Mohammed gives his initiative added credence. Many imams from Sub-Saharan have already undergone training at the new institute in Morocco and it is hoped that this would help to further turn the tide against the Islamist menace which has so entrenched itself on the African continent.

Another positive development that offers hope is in the economic sphere. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman intends to diversify the Saudi economy – moving it away from oil dependence as part of his Vision 2030 Programme. As part of this economic transformation a new US $400 billion sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) has been established. PIF sees itself as an activist international institutional investor and this could greatly assist African states own development goals. In the first instance, PIF seeks returns of 8 percent per annum. These kinds of returns can only be attained in emerging markets such as Africa. The fact that issues of rule of law has been improving in Africa as well as the fact that Africa’s population is set to increase from 1 billion to 3 billion over the next three decades suggests that Africa can provide both a youthful labour force for major projects and also represents a growing buying power for goods produced. From an African perspective, meanwhile, the PIF is particularly attractive since they plan to invest for the long-term and in infrastructure projects that typically have high upfront costs. PIF, however, is not the only Gulf sovereign wealth fund active on the Africa continent. The UAE has already invested in port development, oil and gas exploration and the hospitality sector in Africa. The investment of Gulf sovereign wealth funds cannot be under-estimated. It creates confidence for other institutional investors, specifically pension fund administrators, to also invest on the continent.

Despite the positive aspects of investments, there are also dangers for Africans.  Consider the following: GCC states import as much as 90 percent of their food. To secure food security for their growing populations Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have purchased vast tracts of arable land for production throughout East Africa. The King Abdullah Initiative for Saudi Agricultural Investment Abroad, for instance, has acquired vast swathes of prime agricultural land in Ethiopia and Sudan. According to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, more than US$ 30 billion of agricultural investment in Africa was made between 2004 and 2014 by Gulf countries. Whilst these investment benefits African governments and their respective political elites, it constitutes dangers to African citizens in these countries. A UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report opined, “As governments or markets make land available to prospecting investors, large-scale land acquisitions may result in local people losing access to resources on which they depend for their food security – particularly as some key recipient countries are themselves faced with food security challenges”. A mechanism needs to be found inside these African states where local substance farmers also benefit from the investment or receive cash and training to begin alternative income-generating activities.

Despite the rather malevolent history of the Arab world on the African continent, there are then some encouraging developments that suggest a more positive relationship is on cards for Africa and Arab world, and the Gulf countries in particular.