In the second part of our series focusing on the Mozambique Channel, we highlight how it has become one of the primary passageways for the movement of illicit goods from the mainland to the neighbouring islands of Zanzibar and the Comoros Islands, along the coastline of East Africa, and from the mainland to countries all over the world.
The smuggling of drugs is not only attracting the attention of foreign, particularly US and European, counter-narcotics agencies, but is also closely linked to the interests of insurgents active in the northern Mozambican region of Cabo Delgado. The insurgents, which have been attacking villages and spreading terror, are increasingly attempting to take control of strategic coastal areas that are central to smuggling operations carried out in the Channel. According to a report released by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, “it appears that ASWJ have carved out an area of influence in Cabo Delgado that includes key landing sites for illicit trafficking on the coast, and an important section of the main north-south tar road”.
Historically, control over the security situation in the Mozambique Channel has been limited. Countries bordering the Channel have not had the naval force necessary in order to properly patrol and police the waterway. Consequently, the joint surveillance and security mission being launched by India and France, mentioned in our previous comment is an unprecedented development in the Channel’s security environment.
It is also coming at a crucial time, as the COVID-19 pandemic is only expected to further deteriorate the security situation within northern Mozambique and, as a result, that of the Mozambique Channel as existing problems, such as corruption and local disenfranchisement, are exacerbated.