Mozambique: Zimbabwe is 'natural ally' in new investment projects - president
Photo: O País
In an interview with STV, the diplomat and head of the former ISRI [now Joaquim Chissano University], said he took seriously the hypothesis of “the attempted creation of an Islamic State” in Cabo Delgado by the terrorists active in that part of the country since October 2017. The group is saying that “the system we have internally is corrupt”, and the solution is to establish an “Islamic State, even if it is by force”.
Agostinho Zacarias suggests that we should seek to understand this phenomenon better and have the “courage to exchange intelligence with countries” such as Tanzania, Comoros, Madagascar and South Africa.
Professor Agostinho Zacarias, Mozambique has been independent for 45 years. Over the years, it has established relations with several countries and joined several organisations. How do you analyse the diplomatic relations you have built over these 45 years of independence?
I think our relations with other countries are good. We had the blessing or luck of having Dr Eduardo Mondlane at the beginning. We had people like Marcelino dos Santos and Joaquim Chissano. Mondlane had experience of working at the United Nations; Marcelino dos Santos had extensive experience working with several African nationalists. President Joaquim Chissano was first a student leader and later also involved in international relations.
All of these leaders knew the value of international relations for the goals we were pursuing at that time, and we inherited this experience.
President Joaquim Chissano was Mozambique’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs, and created a basic structure that managed to vouchsafe diverse international relations.
We have good relations; we are known almost everywhere in the world. So far, we are members of several international organisations and we have 130 embassies in different parts of the world.
The oldest organisation of which Mozambique is a member is the Organisation of African Unity (OAU now the African Union). Over these 45 years, how useful has it been for Mozambique?
The organisation was useful for the liberation of the country. The liberation movement of Mozambique benefited from the help of the Liberation Committee – the reasons for the Mozambican people’s struggle against Portuguese colonialism were also evidenced through this organization. Diplomats in many forums got to know Mozambique and the aspirations of the Mozambican people through the OAU.
That, before independence …
Yes, that before independence. Mozambique became a member before independence. I think one of the summits took place here, at the former Sociedade dos Estudos, which is now the Colégio Nyamunda.
However, the OAU played an important role in consolidating our independence.
We were never totally at peace. We had continuing colonialism in the area; Namibia was not free, South Africa was still under apartheid, Zimbabwe was not free.
During all these years, the OAU played an important role as the platform that helped to mirror the aspirations of the Mozambican people to the world, both within their own country, as well as in the world.
More than five decades after the creation of this organisation, do you feel that it is still effective? Does Mozambique feel united with other African Union member countries?
One of the OAU’s goals was to end colonialism on the continent, and all of Africa came together to achieve that goal. The OAU’s other objective was to consolidate independence and create conditions for the development of African countries. It was a constant struggle, because it depended on several factors. Right now, there is this spirit of unity in the struggle for the development of peoples. Countries can vary in the way they do this development, but this unity of thought exists.
This continental unity and the struggle for sovereignty was very evident during the fight for independence in several countries, but, post-independence, is it still as strong as it was in the early years of the creation of this organisation?
Things evolve according to the realities on the ground. Some chose certain policies to develop, others chose others. Therefore, there is a variation in the guidelines, in the policies that are followed in each of these countries to achieve these levels of development.
There are differences, so some are poorer, others are richer. Some have more resources, others have less. So countries need not have the same pace of development.
For example, one of the great challenges facing our countries is the question of know-how, of technology, but also of capable people.
In Mozambique, at the time, very few people had university degrees. Portuguese colonialism had the particularity of not letting Mozambicans of black colour develop. We didn’t have engineers, we didn’t have geologists, we didn’t understand how factories, businesses, etc. worked. And all of this is very important for the development of a country, which practically started from scratch. To put it bluntly, we started from scratch.
The challenges of starting from scratch are huge, and that’s why we’re still fighting, to a certain extent. You make an omelette with the eggs you have. It can be good, it can be bad, it depends on each one’s situation.
The OAU has been unable to either avoid countless conflicts on the continent or to effectively promote the desired development. Looking at Mozambique, the country had 16 years of armed conflict, and, even after the Peace Accords, it continued to have political-military instability, which still prevail today. Today, we have terrorism in Cabo Delgado. To what extent is the OAU, now the African Union, doing its best for peace in our country?
It was never the aim of the OAU to avoid internal conflicts. The role of the OAU was to be a platform for consultation, first to end colonialism on the continent and, second, to provide a basis for the development of these countries. As the situation evolved, it was seen that the challenges that the peoples faced were different. We learned from practice, so some functions that had not been foreseen in the beginning were incorporated into the OAU mandate.
The AU cannot go to any country, nor is it in its statutes, to go and say that we have come here to solve your problems. The government, the legitimate representative of that country, has to request its intervention. The government must say that it needs help in this or that area.
If the African Union, or other international organisation, is in a position [to do so], they will provide such support. But often, as seen in practice, the capabilities of these organisations are limited.
The African Union is not a country with an army that can, for example, go to Cabo Delgado and fight terrorists. Nor should one take the initiative and try to resolve a conflict one doesn’t understand. As for this phenomenon, we as a country have several interpretations, so you would not expect a person coming from the outside who knows little about the reality here, to arrive and find solutions.
Although the AU does not have an army, it does have a Security Council, an organ of which Mozambique is a part. Is the fact that Mozambique is part of this body, and that the AU’s motto for 2020 is to silence the guns, not a combination of factors that can feed our hope for possible support in this conflict in Cabo Delgado?
Countries are not part of an international organisation for their own good only, but to fulfil the organisation’s mandate and objectives. The fact that Mozambique is a member does not mean that all decisions that are taken by vote or unanimously have to favour Mozambique.
But doesn’t Mozambique’s membership of this body offer the possibility of expressing the country’s concerns?
This body has its agenda, which is the agenda of all members. The representative of Mozambique at the Peace and Security Council can talk to his colleagues, but that does not mean that he will impose Mozambique’s agenda on that body. On the other hand, it is difficult to ask this question in an organ like that. Many countries do not like to be on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council or the African Union Peace and Security Council, because it has disadvantages. One is that they don’t treat you like a normal country, and that can scare away investors, because you are seen as a country that cannot solve its internal problems.
In a way, Mozambique would give away part of its sovereignty to that body and would do so without guarantee that the Security Council could resolve the conflict, because there is often no capacity. This issue of Cabo Delgado will be addressed through internal discussion and cooperation with SADC countries, that is, with our neighbouring countries, to see what can be done.
What is your theory of the terrorism in Cabo Delgado?
I haven’t been to Cabo Delgado recently. I follow what I see in the press. I have seen several interviews and recently saw that of General Jacinto Veloso. I listened carefully to his explanation. He explained that the situation arises from individuals who do not want us to develop. I believe that General Jacinto Veloso was once Minister of Security and has international contacts and may have privileged information. But I could not help but dismiss the hypothesis of an attempt to create an Islamic State. Their basis is to say that the system we have internally is corrupt, and the solution for them is to create an Islamic State, even if it is by force.
What I think we should do better is to try to understand this phenomenon. When you look at the experiences of Syria and Iraq, where the Islamic State organised itself in a very strong way, you can see that at its peak there were about 100,000 combatants in both countries, this in 2014. And from that number, about 31,000 came from countries around the world who left their countries and joined the army. That is to say, external links have always existed in this movement. They are people who have money.
Another element is when this group acted in Syria and Iraq it concentrated on taking oil wells precisely to advance with the objectives of the formation of the Islamic State. I am not saying that General Jacinto Veloso’s theory is false, but I think we also have to consider that think they can advance their ambitions from the oil wells. It is possible that Islamic State leaders are extending their network over the entire continent because they know that countries are fragile and cannot defend themselves. It is present in the Sahel, North Africa, in Nigeria, through Boko Haram, in Chad, in the Horn of Africa. The only part of the continent left was the south.
Could the discovery of gas in Cabo Delgado be playing a part in the attraction of this group?
Not only. The exploration of precious stones and other ores. They are concerned with taking the gas so that it will serve to defray the cost of their struggle almost everywhere in the world.
Does Mozambique still have a chance to stop this group, looking at its level of penetration in our territory?
This group was fought in Syria, Algeria and various other corners of the world. We have to invest in the right strategies and the right discussion. And one of the discussions has to do with neighbouring countries such as Tanzania, Comoros, Madagascar and South Africa. We have to have the courage to exchange intelligence with those countries.
This means that SADC can play a relevant role …
In fact, this organization has an important role, even without having any military capacity. Terrorism must be combated, but there are several ways to combat it. One is to promote development, giving hope to young people who live in that region. The adoption of development programs in conjunction with neighbouring countries.
Bearing in mind that development programs take time to work, practically, what can be done today? For example, can Tanzania help Mozambique?
The programmes must be at the level of exchanging information with the countries that I enumerate, because experience shows that the group uses the sea to enter Cabo Delgado, so the sea does not start and end in Mozambique and there are constant communications, they use cell phones, and these communications have to be heard, to understand who are the leaders, who is leading it. I feel that we are fighting an enemy without a face, we have to know what the face is. Without a face it is very difficult, we only see actions of destruction. So we have to know what the right strategy is to move forward. If we fail to understand this, it’s going to be hard. I think that some neighbouring countries can help to understand what is going on, who is at the lead and, from there, we can outline strategies to be able to fight that enemy.
Especially because Mozambique may not be the final destination, but there may be intentions, also a little for other countries in the region ….
Look, when the lion is out there dying, there are many vultures around him, also the hyenas appear and eat what they can eat, so when there is weakened welfare, all the evildoers will try to enter that space and make it theirs. The problem is: how do we avoid this?
Going back to the point of development programmes for the affected regions. Considering that these programmes do not have immediate results, what can be done or considered as alternatives that can bring immediate results?
There are programmes that can have immediate effects, providing jobs quickly. I think that humanitarian aid is necessary to alleviate the state of urgency in which the people are.
There are experiences of some programmes in other countries which can take effect in months and can give occupation to some young people who feel disoriented; this is possible. But those people who have weapons, who fight and who kill, I think the strategy has to be different. We must try to protect people who are suffering from the consequences of these attacks.
The United Nations has a recovery programme which some countries have implemented. I’m thinking of Guatemala and the southern part of Mexico. Even in Africa, there are examples of programmes that can be framed, and, thankfully, the Agency for Integrated Development of the North was created, which is the right path.
Looking now at the Commonwealth… it is also one of the oldest organisations in the world, which Mozambique has been a member since 1995. This organisation defends the maintenance of peace. Is this value and principle sufficient for us to count on some support for Mozambique regarding terrorism in Cabo Delgado?
Yes, everyone who has positive things to give is welcome. I think that the Government has already said that, and I think that the Commonwealth also has a contribution to make. But it is more in the field of training, in the field of empowerment of people who are on the front lines. First, to better understand the type of conflict and how to deal with it, and second to outline the best strategies, the best technologies to combat insurgents. And, third, to discuss such programmes as can give hope to young people, that peace is always better than conflict. The Commonwealth is capable of doing that, but we cannot expect the Commonwealth to go there and fight for us.
Agostinho Zacarias, you published an analysis on security in southern Africa about 20 years ago. Looking at Mozambique’s current situation, and the challenges that other countries have in terms of security, how do see the matter today?
Security always deserves attention … The approach I took in the work was more of international security, discussing security in the international context, specifically in Southern Africa. So, there were countries like South Africa, which had enormous potential, an arms industry and a policy almost of aggression against those who disagreed with Apartheid policies, a way to get neighbouring countries to accept the regime. But it was anticipated that Apartheid was going to end, so what was needed was to create a system of consultation, a system of cooperation, a system of constant analysis, to know where we were going.
What is fundamental to guarantee the security of nations?
In the book, I had as a basis that there should be a confluence and a balance between order, justice and peace. I do not define peace there as the absence of war, but peace as a minimum condition where cooperation is possible – that is, two people who can do one thing together, do not do it in a war environment. If there are three people in a small community, there must be this basis for cooperation. It does not necessarily mean the end of war, but it is necessary to create conditions for a basis for cooperation; this I call peace.
So, if the systems were to multiply these spaces, it would be very easy to create everything necessary for people to feel safe.
Twenty years later, do you think southern Africa is safe?
Twenty years later, Southern Africa has new challenges, but each generation has an obligation to adequately address its challenges. In the past, our elders had the great challenge of fighting colonialism. At present it is economic development that must be achieved, and political extremism and radicalisation that must be resolved.
We cannot feel safe without being able to develop. We have the challenge of improving our systems so that we can reach the level of development that we want, to avoid situations in which there is extremism and political radicalisation, so that we can become a society that we all agree must be democratic. May the values that guide us be peace, cooperation, national and harmonious coexistence. So, this is the challenge we have, it is no longer Portuguese colonialism.
Another organisation of which we are a member is the CPLP, which offers international cooperation for development. How can Portuguese-speaking African countries support Mozambique?
In Lusophone Africa, I think we have a lot to learn from Angola, in terms of oil and gas management, and how they deal with diamonds, too. They have been exploring these resources for so long, and we are just starting to start.
What happens to Portuguese-speaking African countries is that they are far from each other, and some do not have many resources. For example, São Tomé depended a lot on the resources that came from Angola; Guinea-Bissau is a country that doesn’t have many resources; Cape Verde has had faster development than many of us here. Perhaps the solution is to have programmes in the administrative area and in the area of staff training. Perhaps we should choose to exchange experiences, because these are countries that do not have many resources, but have great cultural value and deal with a system that has been inherited.
Looking at Angola, for example, which is one of the countries closest to Mozambique. How beneficial can this approach be?
It is possible to improve the level of cooperation.
In the past, there may have been more contacts than now, but I mentioned, for example, their experience in the area of diamonds, and also gas.
We had the same heritage – the creation of liberation movements and civil wars. There is no record of terrorist movements in Angola, but it has a combative experience, a military experience that can be passed on by Angolans. They trained with other countries in policing and in the army. Maybe if we need that …. But our leaders know about this.
So, everything is resolved by speaking. If there is no conversation, there is no manifestation of need. The other country cannot show up and say, if you want, I can do this for you. There must be an initiative and an awareness that we need help.
Concerning diplomatic relations between Mozambique and other countries over the 45 years of independence, it is essential to talk about China and the United States. How can Africa – and Mozambique, in particular – position themselves in relation to the interests of these great powers?
The United States, I think, gives, on average, around US$500 million in aid to Mozambique every year, and I think that now, with the second part of the Millennium Challenge Account, Mozambique will receive still more. I think that there is US$8.2 billion available for African countries coming from the USA. The Millennium Challenge Account is like a prize for countries that promote reforms in the area of governance and the creation of a free market. The United States has also given a lot of money to combating HIV/Aids, through PEPFAR, which was started by President Bush, which I think continues today. So, overall, I think there is a good relationship between Mozambique and the United States. What Mozambique needs to define more precisely is the issue of national interest; what the national interest is and how to organise international relations around it.
In the past, we knew by heart and back to front – ‘de cor e salteado’, as it is said in good Portuguese – that our main goal was national liberation. Then it became the development of the country and the struggle for peace. So, these were very clear goals. We may have to make a big effort, because those goals, when it came to the struggle for peace, managed to mobilise a number of actors. Training institutions like the ISRI played an important role in the various debates.
In your opinion, what would the national interest be today?
It is not something that can be defined with words and it is not something that is defined by a single person. But one of the goals would be the consolidation of peace, that is a national interest and another aspiration is economic development.
In 1990, you published a book “Rethinking Strategies on Mozambique and Southern Africa”. At that time, Mozambique was trying to adapt to a new international situation, after deciding to leave socialism behind and move to capitalism, which could be a door to new opportunities. If you were to edit the work today, what would you add to this work, looking at the current situation?
There is a small note to add there. It was not about leaving socialism to embrace capitalism. Mozambique always said it was not aligned. We were neither socialists nor Marxists, we were for Mozambique and Mozambique’s foreign policy was never for capitalism, it was always for Mozambique, to safeguard Mozambique’s position.
That interest remains the same. What we need to know is what is important to us. To know what is important to us, we have to have an open space for us to work together internally, whether in civil society, in opposition or in the church. There has to be a space to express what this Mozambique is, what we are, what unites us, what we want to project out there, because we cannot design something that someone is going to destroy internally. This is not what we want.
So, there must be these spaces for concertation and discussion. I think that’s what’s important, to safeguard the national interest.
By Olivia Massango