Ansar al Sunna is the name of the Islamist group which is wreaking havoc in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique where the government have been using COIN (counter insurgency) and law enforcement tactics to deal with the group since the eruption of violence in 2017.
Violence in Mozambique has intensified with the increased presence of foreign nations, observably following the discovery of gas reserves whose exploration rights where given to Exxon Mobil, the American oil behemoth.
The modus operandi of this Islamist group has a similar theme as witnessed in North Africa primarily Niger Delta where an increase in western troops primarily from France has seen a spike in violence and increased sophistication of MO, objectives and escalation of demands whilst sources of recruitment seems to be unending and attacks getting daring by the day.
The Mozambican government is tackling the insurgency with the help of the Russians using sophisticated equipment but with less intelligence about the terrain they are operating in and thus the extremists have been able to disarm the poorly trained and coordinated Mozambican army, seizing most military hardware in the process.
Disturbingly, especially for the SADC region, Ansar al Sunna, while intensifying their attacks and proliferating violence, has begun to move inland towards mainland Mozambique (as if in the direction of neighbouring Zimbabwe).
Their agenda seems to be a bit religious even though their presence in resource rich areas raises a worrying pattern following the defeat of IS in Raqqa and Mosul where they had access to oil revenue.
These extremists are using MACHETES to behead civilians, coupled with firearms which they are utilising to achieve a sinister objective.
It must be noted that amongst a repertoire of tactics, kidnappings form a critical component of revenue generations of these extremist entities and as such, the US has been warning its citizens to be on the alert within this region.
Mozambique is proving to be inefficient and incompetent at tackling the growing terrorist insurgency since its reaction to this disturbing development has been slow, mechanical and pathetic, not forgetting a media ban on what is happening.
The mentioned terrorist group is able to recruit from former Mozambican army soldiers and former police members, a pattern which is omnipresent within southern Africa, where, due to economic hardships, soldiers are flocking to greener pastures in search of economic posterity.
Over and above that, corruption is acting as a risk intensifier and this has raised fears of an all regional escalation, with general evidence to prove that ex Zimbabwean soldiers are behind a slew of armed robberies that occur in South Africa.
The response to this chaos has been reactive and shows a region unprepared with handling this asymmetric threat. Like I warned repeatedly about the MaShurugwi madness, the evolution of violence is systematic, gradual and well-coordinated.
A review of ‘expert analysis’ by elements from ‘renowned entities ‘ within the region shows lack of appreciation and total divorce to global terrorism trends, architecture and how the threat is manifesting in Sub Saharan Africa and now southern Africa.
These ‘career analysts’ are responsible for misinforming regional governments, no wonder the pathetic response by SADC and lack of information as to the danger being posed by this extremist violence.
Money laundering forms a critical component of survival of these terror entities but we are thus not as effective as we are supposed to be to deter and mute money laundering because most of our banking protocols within the SADC region excluding South Africa are still using Basel I accords.
This is why I felt that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is now a threat to regional and national security due to its lack of effectiveness, reactive policies and naivety which only helps promote money laundering.
For example, our stock markets are being used as safe havens for speculation by these terror sleeper cells whilst bitcoin, whose rewards I believe are high in Zimbabwe, gives another avenue for lucrative profits.
A thriving black-market is just what is conducive to these criminals for them to make and generate revenue without being detected even though expertise and security sense points out to the existence of well-coordinated terror cells not only from the proxy, Ansar Al Sunna but also IS within the region.
Weak legislation and monitoring have meant that Sub Saharan Africa becomes a haven for their operations as they can be able to generate revenue much easily as opposed to oil rich countries where interests are high and systems are developed and integrated.
No wonder I warned about the need to take me seriously when I was talking about the MaShurugwi issue. Some excitable and less informed characters would think I am a Chipopi defending Zanu PF but I was consistent and unyielding as I sought to enlighten that what we are witnessing is not only politically driven violence but also the evolution of a terror phenomenon which our systems can’t comprehend at this juncture.
I remember being brutal in my revulsion for our useless Zimbabwean parliament citing that we elect people to sing yet we are faced with a dangerous situation demanding immediate attention.
I was clear and straightforward that we need new institutions with the wherewithal to face these asymmetric threats whilst at the same time we must not rely on the law enforcement approach being used at this juncture to control anarchy within the mineral sector.
It’s no coincidence that attacks occurred within that sector and just like in Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger Delta etc., and the trend within Sub Saharan Africa is clear.
It’s now high time we have a national coordinated response to this scourge before we are caught napping because at the moment, our military in its current state won’t survive ambush attacks or even full-scale operations aimed at looting weapons from our armoury especially in isolated military outposts.
We need to strengthen our institutions. I have been saying this. Ignore political reforms mantra. What I am talking of is the real business.
We are in for it, if we don’t strengthen our institutions. Our civil servants are corrupt and you must stand guided that Al Shebaab has been able to infiltrate into Kenya and wage attacks on such institutions like Garisa University and Westgate Mall amongst others due to collusion and corruption.
A look at the recently released TI Corruption Index paints a gloomy picture since most Sub Saharan African states has been listed among the most corrupt.
With an average score of around 32/100, Africa ranks as the most corrupt region and Zimbabwe got a very concerning score of 24 while our Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission is playing lip service to the threatening prevalence of corruption in our country.
The threat of terrorism is real, immediate and extremely dangerous and thus my advice is that we must be united and engage each other towards influencing policy makers to listen to our voices when it comes to critical issues that affect our society rather than being lured into the trap of Twitter trolls who are only able to divide us without offering solutions.
We must enhance cyber abilities lest we are going to be caught napping when dealing with such a serious issue which demands that we must think on our toes.
Now that the threat is closer to home and attention is being generated, I have been vindicated and so, now I am focusing solely on the evolution of terrorism in Southern Africa since people are beginning to notice the threat, whereas, before, to some, I was just sounding like a broken record.
Forewarned is forearmed!
Tawanda David Gotami: MBA (UZ), Bsc Hons Intelligence and Security Studies (BUSE), Certificate in Counter Violent Extremism, Insurgency and Cyber Warfare (National Security College, Australia National University), now pursuing a Master of Defence in Asymmetric Warfare with a thrust on Terrorism, Insurgency and Cyber Warfare at Indonesia Defence University. Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation.