Connect with us

Headline News

Tracing the history of Mozambique’s mysterious and deadly insurgency



Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province has been held hostage by insurgents for nearly 17 months. Armed attacks, decapitations and the destruction of property have become common. Many are worried that the violence may escalate and destabilise the country’s economy further.

One of the biggest problems is that nobody really knows who the insurgents are. They don’t make public statements, so their motives are unclear.

Speculation and conspiracy theories abound. Many, including state officials and the new president of the Renamo opposition party, believe the insurgency is part of a struggle within the national elite for the control of Cabo Delgado’s oil, gas and mineral riches.

The government offers few – and contradictory – explanations. It has said both that the violence is committed by local unemployed “criminals”, and that the attacks are the result of global jihadism trying to move into Mozambique.

Lack of information and clashing explanations have led to confusion as to what’s happening in Northern Mozambique and what should be done to reverse the situation.

Roots of insurgency

The local population calls the group behind the attacks “al-Shabaab”. This means “youth” in Arabic and refers, of course, to the global terror group in Somalia (though the Mozambican insurgents have no formal links to them). In Mozambique, the group’s origins go back to the 2000s, when some young men within the Islamic Council of Mozambique began to develop a new reading and practice of Islam.

In Cabo Delgado, they created a sub-organisation within the Islamic Council called “Ansaru-Sunna” which registered legally with the state. It built new mosques and preached a stricter form of Islam across the province. Soon, a more radical and activist group formed within this sub-organisation and split off as a sect – what has become known locally as “al-Shabaab”.

This group initially concerned itself with religious debates, practice and opposition to the secular state. In 2010 the villagers of Nhacole in the Balama district decided to get rid of the group and destroyed its mosque. Sect members fled to the town of Mucojo, in the district of Macomia. There tensions flared with the local population and authorities.

The police had to intervene twice in Mucojo. In 2015 they were called in because the sect tried to forcefully impose a ban of alcohol in the town. Death and injuries ensued when a sect member fatally stabbed a policeman.

Resort to arms

Mainstream Muslim organisations and individuals, among them the Islamic Council from which the “al-Shabaab” sect split off, were disquieted by the group’s actions. They repeatedly asked the government to intervene.

In late 2016, the government finally acceded to their request and began to arrest and bring some group leaders to court across the province. The men were accused of engaging in disinformation, rejecting state authority, refusing to send their children to school, and using knives to protect themselves.

It’s not clear when the “al-Shabaab” members began to train militarily, but the state’s actions against their leaders seem to have been the tipping point towards their passing to armed action. Their first attack was in October 2017 in the town of Mocímboa da Praia and surrounding communities.

Since then, sect members have taken to the bush from where they attack isolated villages. The number of attacks and their brutality increased steadily in 2018. The insurgency seems to have become more organised. Its attacks and activities have focused on a coastal band about 150kms wide, from the provincial capital of Pemba to the Tanzanian border.

Seeds of discontent

It is clear, then, that the insurgency has built on some local social, religious and political tensions. Cabo Delgado is Mozambique’s poorest province; unemployment is high, particularly among the youth. It’s also largely rural. Government services are not reliable.

Major recent oil and gas discoveries in the area have generated many expectations, but communities have seen very few, if any, benefits, particularly in rural areas.

In addition, the fact that Muslims feel particularly marginalised in Cabo Delgado, where their ethnic neighbours have had privileged access to national political power since independence, helps explain how an anti-state Islamist discourse may have gained traction.

Another aspect is the group’s international connections. Much has been said about links to Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. But most connections are with Tanzania.

Mozambican Islamic clerics have trained in Tanzania for more than a century and exchanges have taken place for longer, among religious communities on both sides of the border. So it’s unsurprising that the Mozambican “al-Shabaab” connected with like-minded Muslims in Tanzania in the 2010s.

After Tanzanian radicals became violent and the state responded forcefully against them after 2015, and particularly strongly in early 2017, some of them took refuge with the Mozambican “al-Shabaab”. This has reinforced and partially internationalised the insurgency.

Seeking solutions

Since the “al-Shabaab” in Mozambique is not the result of an internal or external conspiracy, the state needs to focus on the social, religious and political dynamics at play to control and combat the insurgency.

While the Mozambican army has managed successfully to contain the geographical spread of the armed sect, the government needs to focus with equal force on redressing the local grievances which the insurgents are tapping into.

Mozambican scholar Yussuf Adam has put forward an interesting idea to start addressing these grievances. He argues that the state should hold district “general estate assemblies” to identify issues, and to design solutions from the bottom up.

Continue Reading

Headline News

Top US admiral bristles at criticism of ‘woke’ military: ‘We are not weak’



Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of Naval Operations, rebuffed pointed interrogations by GOP lawmakers who grilled him over his decision to recommend sailors read a book deemed by some conservatives as anti-American.

The U.S. Navy’s top admiral also defended moves to address and root out racism and extremism in the forces as well as its efforts to bolster inclusion and diversity, which have prompted criticism from some conservatives and Republican lawmakers.

“Do you personally consider advocating for the destruction of American capitalism to be extremist?” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., asked Gilday during a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, referring to a passage from Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How to Be an Antiracist,” which argues capitalism and racism are interlinked.

Banks continued to interrogate the admiral over specific quotes from Kendi’s book, which was a No. 1 New York Times best seller in 2020, and statements he had made elsewhere in the past.

Visibly distraught, Gilday fired back:

“I am not going to sit here and defend cherry-picked quotes from somebody’s book,” he said. “This is a bigger issue than Kendi’s book. What this is really about is trying to paint the United States military, and the United States Navy, as weak, as woke.”

He added that sailors had spent 341 days at sea last year with minimal port visits — the longest deployments the Navy has done, he said.

“We are not weak. We are strong,” Gilday said.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., also challenged the admiral by citing specific quotes from the book and asked him how those ideas laid out by Kendi would further advance or improve the Navy’s power.

Gilday responded by arguing the importance of transparency and open dialogue about racism.

“There is racism in the Navy just as there is racism in our country, and the way we are going to get out of it is by being honest and not to sweep it under the rug,” he expounded, adding that he does not agree with everything the author says in the book.

The key point however, he said, is for sailors “to be able to think critically.”

The exchange was the latest in vociferous complaints from some conservative leaders and lawmakers who suggest the armed forces are becoming a pawn for the country’s culture wars and “wokeness” ideology, as the military takes steps to address issues of racial inclusion, extremism, racism and white supremacy.

And only last week, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., accosted Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin about Kendi’s book, which Cotton said promoted “critical race theories” at a different Senate Armed Services Committee hearing where Austin was testifying.

Days earlier, Cotton and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas — two combat veterans — launched a “whistleblowers” online platform to report examples of “woke ideology” in the military.

“Enough is enough. We won’t let our military fall to woke ideology,” Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, said in a tweet.

Also in February, Austin instructed a one-day stand-down across the Defense Department pausing regular activities to address extremism and white nationalism in the ranks — an issue Austin declared as a priority after a number of rioters at the U.S. Capitol in January were found to have military backgrounds.

The stand down completed in April was an effort to better understand the scope of the problem of extremism in the ranks, Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby said in a briefing then.

Earlier, Austin had revoked a ban on diversity training for the military.

More recently, in May, a U.S. Army animated ad focused on soldier diversity — featuring the real story of a soldier who enlisted after being raised by two mothers in California — drew criticism and political backlash from some conservative lawmakers.

“Holy crap,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a tweet. “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea. . . .”

Cruz was referring to a TikTok video that compared the U.S. Army ad with a Russia campaign that showed buff soldiers doing push-ups and leaping out of airplanes, adding that the contrast made the American soldiers “into pansies.”

The confrontation Tuesday is also the latest in reproaches by Rep. Banks, who is a Naval Reserve officer, and other GOP members over Gilday’s recommendation to include Kendi’s book in the Chief of Naval Operations Professional Reading Program.

In February, Banks sent a letter to Gilday arguing that the views promoted in the book are “explicitly anti-American” and demanded Gilday explain the Navy’s decision to include it on the reading list or remove it.

Gilday responded to Banks in a letter obtained by Fox News saying that the book was included on the list because “it evokes the author’s own personal journey in understanding barriers to true inclusion, the deep nuances of racism and racial inequalities.”

Lamborn and Rep. Vicky Hartzler, D-Mo., also wrote a letter to the admiral to convey their concern about the inclusion of Kendi’s book as well as Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” and Jason Pierceson’s “Sexual Minorities and Politics.”

The GOP lawmakers argued the books “reinforce a view that America is a confederation of identity categories of the oppressed and their oppressors rather than a common homeland of individual citizens who are united by common purposes,“ Lamborn and Hartzler wrote, according to Fox News.

Continue Reading

Headline News

Looking back on the 1991 reforms in 2021



Our understanding of events refines with time. New developments reframe the issues, and prompt reassessment of the solutions applied, their design and outcomes. What does looking back on the 1991 reforms in 2021 tell us?

For three decades, India celebrated and criticised the 1991 reforms. The reformers of 1991 say that the idea wasn’t only to tide over a Balance of Payments (BOP) crisis; the changes they brought in went beyond the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) conditionalities for the bailout. The reforms, they insist, were ‘home-grown’. In the years leading up to 1991, technocrats in government had been thinking and writing about how India’s economic policies had been blocking the country’s rise to potential and the structural changes needed. If the broad range of reforms—including tearing down the industrial license permit raj, an exchange rate correction, and liberalising foreign direct investment and trade policies—could be launched within a matter of days of a new government joining office, they argue, it is because the blueprints were ready, waiting for the go-ahead from the political leadership.

The reformers of 1991 say that the idea wasn’t only to tide over a Balance of Payments (BOP) crisis; the changes they brought in went beyond the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) conditionalities for the bailout.

At least two well-regarded technocrats that were important in the 1991 reforms disagree—publicly and in off-the-record conversations. In a media interview last month, one of them, the economic adviser in the reforms team, Dr Ashok Desai, suggested that if there were any reformers in government before the IMF “forced” India to liberalise in 1991, “they hid themselves very well”. According to him, after the BOP crisis was resolved, finance minister Dr Manmohan Singh turned “dead against reforms”.

The multiple versions of the reforms story make it difficult to separate fact from romance. It cannot be disputed, though, that the 1991 BOP crisis was a turning point for the economy. India had tided over BOP crises earlier with loans from the IMF, repaid them prematurely, and avoided going through with the bailout’s conditionalities. 1991 was singularly different because India was on the brink of default, which is likely to have forced politicians to set politics aside and listen to technocrats. Any default on external obligations would have meant hurting India’s credibility grievously and an inescapable sense of national shame. The government probably took the view that there was no choice other than to take corrective steps. Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao named Dr Manmohan Singh, who had been a technocrat in government and was well regarded in global policy circles, as his finance minister. Dr Singh clearly had the Prime Minister’s, his party’s and the IMF’s trust. Records irrefutably show that the Congress party’s acceptance of the reversals in the interventionist economic policies of the first four post-Independence decades was not secured by the Prime Minister. He had delegated the task of tackling doubts and resistance within the party to his ministers, in particular, the finance minister and the commerce minister, and an aide in his office. The finance minister defended the reforms on the floor of the house in Parliament.

Continue Reading

Headline News

Taxpayer-funded NPR mocks ‘CaPitAliSm,’ prompting calls to ‘defund’ media outlet



National Public Radio (NPR) ignited a social media firestorm Thursday night over a tweet that appears to mock capitalism, despite taxpayer dollars accounting for much of the organization’s annual budget.

The outlet posted a story titled “And Now, Crocs With Stiletto Heels” that explores a curious new collaboration between luxury fashion brand Balenciaga and Crocs, the rubber slipper company responsible for fashion faux pas among the millions of comfort-clinging owners nationwide.

The caption accompanying the article, which was written in both uppercase and lowercase letters, appears to mock the collaboration: “CaPitAliSm bReEds InNovAtiOn,” it reads. 

The tweet’s language sparked outrage on social media, with figures like conservative Tim Young calling out the irony in NPR’s three-word post.

“You wouldn’t exist without capitalism, clown who is tweeting on behalf of NPR,” he wrote.

“Job at public news station wouldn’t exist wo capitalism,” another user echoed. “Are you guys ok?”

“Our tax money shouldn’t pay for this,” one person expressed.

“It’s still a hell of a lot better than communism at breeding innovation, even if some of the products are silly,” one woman fired back.

Continue Reading