By Kester Kenn Klomegah
While Mozambique is fighting militant attacks by deploying regional force, the frequency of kidnapping for ransom money especially local and foreign business executives presents serious signs of the deteriorating security situation and negative effects of business climate in country.
According to the National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC), mid-October kidnapping of doctor and a businessman, the latest in the series this year, in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, has left many residents shaken. The kidnappers carried firearms, and fired shots into the air to threaten the victims.
It said that the victims of the kidnappings, which all took place in the morning, Basit Gani, a doctor and vice president of the Mozambican Association of Muslim Business and Entrepreneurs, and Nazir Tadkir, a businessman in the restaurant sector.
Besides the capital city, seven women were kidnapped on October 8 from Nacate village in Macomia district, Cabo Delgado province, where they were farming. That was not the first case of abduction of women and girls especially in the districts affected by the terrorist attacks. Hundreds of women and girls have been kidnapped by the terrorists since the attacks began. Some of them have been rescued, while others have never been seen since then by their families.
The Association of Doctors and the Order Doctors of Mozambique has addressed an open letter, demand that the President Filipe Nyusi to intervene, through the institutions he directs, to put an end to the kidnappings.
Milton Tatia, the Association’s President said, with some concern, that the security situation of Mozambicans is getting worse every day, aggravated by criminal acts and undermining the necessary confidence in public institutions.
The doctors condemned the incident, call for respect for the sector and the effort doctors have made to secure and safeguard the health of Mozambicans. It further called for steps to be taken to restore to freedom the health professional, whose presence was sorely needed within the medical community and to his family in particular.
“We are aware that abduction is a difficult phenomenon to combat, however it is the duty of the defence and security forces to do everything to restore freedom to citizens who are victims of this evil,” Tatia added.
“Doctors have been exercising their functions in the most difficult working conditions, and have not stinted in their efforts to take care of the Mozambican population, even in times of pandemic,” he highlighted.
In a similar direction, the Chairman of the Medical Association of Mozambique, Gilberto Manhiça, said that safety was a fundamental precondition for the success of any activity, and that, without it, patients could not be given the necessary attention.
“It is not possible for us to have a calm, studied approach, with the characteristic dedication and competence, in circumstances such as that our colleague is enduring,” he said, concluding that Doctor Basit Gani’s colleagues say they were surprised to hear that he had been kidnapped.
The Confederation of Business Associations of Mozambique has condemned the kidnapping. “These kidnappings reveal that the criminality is reaching alarming levels, contributing to a greater climate of despair, uncertainty and insecurity, negatively affecting the business environment and private investment in Mozambique,” said a statement from the CTA.
CTA condemns these horrendous crimes and vehemently demands that the authorities combat these crimes efficiently, concretely and with visible results. In addition to the CTA, the Association of Doctors expressed its rejection to the situation, demanding the urgent intervention of the President Filipe Nyusi.
The Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA) – the largest employers’ association – has on several occasions demand a more vigorous response to this type of crime, which mainly targets business executives and their families. Last December, the Mozambican president floated the possibility of creating an anti-kidnapping police unit to fight the wave of abductions in Mozambique’s main cities.
During the first half of this year, Xian Yao, a Chinese businessman, was kidnapped. The kidnappers asked for 25 million meticais for ransom – approximately €338,000. In another case, Kapil Rajasa 31-year-old businessman of Indian origin, was abducted. Rajas was kidnapped at his workplace and took him to a house in the Maputo neighbourhood of Mahotas. The gang demanded that the victim’s family pay a ransom of US$600,000 for his release.
Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa director with the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch, also spoke about human rights violations that included frequent kidnappings. Mavhinga says the government needs to take responsibility for its own policy failures. While militants have committed grievous acts – including kidnappings, rapes and – rights groups have also documented abuses by Mozambican security forces, including torture and extrajudicial killings.
In April for instance, expert discussions via a videoconference held by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) of the United States called on President Filipe Nyusi to make consistent efforts toward addressing the systemic governance deficit, deepening political discontent, and widening socio-economic disparity is the surest possible way to maintain a long-term peaceful environment in Mozambique.
The participants further noted that the Mozambican government has largely failed with its security policy and ignored experts’ advice on security after several warnings issued after militant bloody attacks in 2017 by a group known locally as al-Shabab. Several experts have also attributed attacks to governance deficit and disparity in development in northern Mozambique.
President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, says insecurity is seriously affecting the investment and urgent steps need to be taken to arrest the situation throughout Africa.
Addressing Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at their 59th ordinary session on June 19 at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra, Adesina said the rapidly deteriorating security situation on the continent needs immediate attention, referring to the southern African country Mozambique.
“The investable space in Africa is rapidly shrinking due to insecurity. Take the case of Mozambique, where the African Development Bank helped to structure a US$24 billion deal for its liquified natural gas project. This transaction won the global deal project of the year 2020 award. This would have made Mozambique the third-largest producer of liquified natural gas in the world with projected revenues of 66 billion dollars. Insecurity would become a huge risk to our dream of an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” the AfDB boss added.
With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources but remains one of the poorest and underdeveloped countries in the world. It is one of the 16 countries, with a collective responsibility to promote socio-economic and political and security cooperation, within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) created in 1980.