As the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mulls options with regard to military intervention in Mozambique, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) maintains adding new armament to the Mozambican armed forces (FADM) arsenal is not necessarily in the interests of ending violence in the northern part of the east African country.
SIPRI arms and military expenditure programme’s Jordan Smith points out, even as military options are considered by the Southern African regional bloc and the EU “adding new arms to the conflict in Mozambique risks worsening an already dire situation for local civilians, not ending it”.
In a commentary piece, he adds: “with major concerns around transparency in military procurement and budgeting, suppliers cannot be confident about how and where their arms exports will be used”.
“Until more is known about the impact certain weapons supplies may have on Mozambique’s conflict, any external actors should carefully consider the implications of arms transfers as a response to the insurgency. Pursuing such a policy in isolation would act as a treatment for symptoms rather than an effective prevention strategy and is unlikely to bring the conflict to a peaceful resolution.”
Smith writes: “The impact new access to arms can have in certain contexts should not be under-estimated. It remains unclear whether arms supplies provide additional security and ultimately help to stabilise violent conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa or rather provoke and prolong them. Recent experience in Burkina Faso and Mali suggests increased arms transfers are no easy solution.
“One question is whether equipping and expanding the FADM could end up strengthening grievances against the state. The US military training missions followed calls by Amnesty International for more training of the FADM, including in international human rights law. Amnesty documented human rights violations believed to have been carried out by the FADM and mercenary groups as well as Ansari al-Sunnah. There is surely a risk greater access to arms will exacerbate these abuses.
“Further, allegations of large-scale corruption likely deepened mistrust of the Mozambique government. Perceptions of relative deprivation and inequality are assessed to be stronger motivations for insurgents than jihadist ideology. The start of the insurgency followed soon after ta $2 billion loans scandal broke. This connection demands further attention and research.”
The loans scandal he refers to apparently involved off-budget military spending in the east African country with investigations alleging the $2 billion loans were to three companies partly owned by Service de Informaçãos e Segurança do Estado (SISE), Mozambique’s security services.
Of this, $500 million was reportedly earmarked for patrol aircraft, boats and radars. Another $200 million was to pay commissions for people facilitating the deals. “Around two-thirds, $1.3 billion, remains unaccounted for. The $500 million alone would more than double Mozambique’s military expenditure between 2013 and 2016,” according to Smith.
There is substantial risk of new FADM weaponry falling into enemy hands – Islamist militants previously seized substantial military hardware from FADM forces. New hardware means little without the proper training and expertise to operate it. For example, during the attack on Palma in March, recently acquired Mi-17 and Mi-24 helicopters involved withdrew after being hit by enemy fire, leaving civilians exposed on the ground.
Mozambique has acquired new equipment, including Marauder armoured personnel carriers, Gazelle light helicopters and Mi-17 and Mi-24 helicopters, among others.