Sunday, 17 January 2016

Someone Should Be Paying Attention To Mozambique

Some crises go largely unnoticed, at least until they get so big and terrifying that they disrupt the day-to-day of business or someone high-profile or connected (or connected to a journalist) is affected. Sometimes the government is quite keen to keep them unnoticed -  a report of ongoing, low-level conflict or unrest doesn't do wonders for tourism or FDI.

Of course, stories still get out, even when the crisis goes largely unnoticed. The stories of kidnappings, like this one, continue to filter into mainstream media. These often seem isolated and got lost in the noise.

But something is building. Or maybe it's continuing to bubble under the surface. On Thursday, the leader of RENAMO "declared that his decision to seize control of six northern and central provinces as from March is “irreversible”. Just to be clear, this is not an electoral takeover - although he does claim that these provinces are rightfully his based on results he says were falsified in the October 2014 elections.

Meanwhile, the number of people fleeing across the border to Malawi from Mozambique continues to grow. The UN/UN agencies are reporting that these people are fleeing clashes between government and opposition forces. Other reports suggest that at least some of these people have fled victimisation and harassment by government forces specifically - government which in turn "reportedly said those fleeing into Malawi are either thugs or lazy people", denying the displacement crisis entirely.

It's unclear the extent to which either side in Mozambique will be able to enact their threats but civilians are already feeling the heat and the movement across the border. Those who make it across the border typically also represent a tip-of-the-iceberg, with many more people likely displaced within the country. Mozambique is an LDC with impressive gas-and-oil related growth over the last few years and huge problems of poverty. This isn't a story that should be ignored.

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