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Leadership of Catholic Peace Institute Questions Tanzania’s Silence on Mozambique Crisis

A group of militants that was seen crossing into Tanzania near the Namoto forest on Wednesday, May 5/ Credit: Denis Hurley Peace Institute

Images of militants freely crossing the border from the north of Mozambique to southern parts of Tanzania have left many wondering why the East African country has chosen to remain silent concerning the ongoing insurgency across the border.

The May 5 image shared by the Catholic peace organization, Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI) of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC), shows a group of about 100 militants crossing into the Namoto forest in the southern part of Tanzania.

The leadership of DHPI is especially baffled that Tanzanian authorities and security forces have been refusing entry to civilian refugees fleeing the fighting in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region in the north while insurgents are crossing the border “with impunity.”

“There is mounting speculation among civilians in Cabo Delgado that either Tanzania is failing to act or the country’s authorities are supporting the ongoing insurgency in her neighbor, Mozambique,” Johan Viljoen, the Director of DHPI told ACI Africa in an interview on Wednesday, May 12.

The official of the peace and charity organization, which is providing humanitarian support to displaced refugees in the Catholic Archdiocese of Nampula and the Diocese of Pemba added, “People in Cabo Delgado are wondering why they are not allowed to enter Tanzania yet the insurgents have been spotted entering the country with impunity. Apparently, Tanzanian authorities are allowing the militants to pass without any obstacles.”

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The official of the peace institute that is monitoring the evolution of the Mozambican conflict told ACI Africa that civilians in the Palma attack who tried to enter Tanzania were turned away.

Afraid of going back to the town that had been taken over by militants, the people settled at the border of Mozambique and Tanzania.

“It is baffling considering that Palma is located just about 15 kilometers from Mozambique’s border with Tanzania. The people would have found it safe in Tanzania but they were denied entry and the UNHCR (UN Refugee agency) is aware of this development,” the DHPI Director says.

In the May 12 interview with ACI Africa, the official says that the speculations going around in Cabo Delgado about what has been labelled as the “Tanzania-Insurgency connection” may however be unfounded.

“There is no evidence that Tanzania is connected to the insurgency in any way. As a matter of fact, Tanzania has also suffered at the hands of the insurgents who launched several attacks in some towns in the southern parts of the country,” Mr. Viljoen says.

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He explains that Tanzania’s inaction in the ongoing Mozambique crisis may be attributed to the country’s lack of capacity to fight the militants.

The DHPI official however calls upon the government of the East African country to be more welcoming to refugees fleeing violence in Cabo Delgado, saying, “Tanzania’s authorities should not refuse entry to helpless civilians seeking safety across the border. The UNHCR should also move in quickly to set up camps for the displaced people once they are accepted in Tanzania.”

He also appeals to the Tanzanian government to beef up security in the country’s southern parts instead of allowing the region to be the den of the insurgents.

Meanwhile, in his analysis of the relationships between Tanzania and Mozambique, the DHPI official says that there has been tension between the two African countries for years owing to the Western economic interests in both countries.

“The tension started building when French energy giant Total was contemplating setting up its operations in Mozambique,” Mr. Viljoen says.

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He explains, “Tanzania wanted Total’s operations to be on the border but that wasn’t going to be the case since 80 percent of the natural gas came from Mozambique while only 20 percent of it was from Tanzania. Tanzania was therefore aggrieved when the gas company set its operations in Mozambique.”

“At the time, there were no security issues and for the longest time, Tanzania has appealed to Total to increase the country’s shares in the gas company’s operations,” the Peace analyst says.

Owing to the heightened insecurity especially in Palma town where Total was based, the gas company has abandoned the project and operations are underway to dismantle the company altogether, Mr. Viljoen intimates to ACI Africa.