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The bloodletting in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province seems a world away to most South Africans, but what happens there has serious implications for us and the future of our region.
Bands of well-armed insurgents have been attacking villages, towns and cities in the province for a number of years now. No-one is sure who funds them or even what their ideology is, although some experts have said they are some Islamic jihadist variant.
Hundreds of local people are said to have died at their hands – some being beheaded or dismembered.
Sadly, though, those deaths, of ordinary black Africans, made little impression on the outside … until this week, when foreigners became victims.
When insurgents overwhelmed the town of Palma, a number of expatriates, including at least one South African, were killed.
Others may have been captured after a reported ambush on a vehicle evacuation convoy. Conspicuous for their bravery in rescuing scores of people from Pemba were pilots, technicians and military operators from the SA-based Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), which was the only entity taking any action against the insurgents after the attack began on Wednesday.
DAG has previously been accused of indiscriminately killing civilians while combatting insurgents on behalf of the Mozambique government.
The company had denied the allegations and appointed senior, independent lawyers to investigate.
The situation in Palma is connected, one way or another, to a massive US$20 billion (about R300 billion) liquid natural gas plant run by French firm Total, which had, supposedly, been given protection by 500 Mozambique government soldiers.
That a company like DAG had to be called in to deal with the insurgents a year ago – and that it has had considerable success in pushing them further north – shows that, private military companies, employing experienced people from the region, have a vital role to play in ensuring stability in our area .
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