The militant Islamist extremists wreaking havoc in a subtle but equally dangerous insurgency in Mozambique is unsettling countries such as Botswana and South Africa.
To this end, The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is reportedly on stand-by fearing that terrorism attacks in Mozambique could spill over to other southern African nations among them Botswana.
The BDF Commander Placid Segokgo last week stopped short of admitting that there is panic at the barracks following reports that recently civilians were the main targets of attacks by Islamist militants in Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique.
Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Segokgo appealed to Parliament to ensure that the army is well resourced to deal with the terrorist attacks in Mozambique.
“Terrorism, particularly the insurgency in Cabo Delgado in Mozambique, is a very serious threat. It is not on our shores but it is a threat that moves very dynamically. Unfortunately, Mozambique is caught in a situation where previously they were told they were dividends of peace. They needed not invest in security,” said Segokgo.
He told PAC that Mozambicans are now faced with this particular emergency which calls for special resourcing on “human resources for Mozambique to be able to address this particular challenge.”
Segokgo said Mozambique is part of Southern African Development Community (SADC) adding that the bloc is committed to regional security.
“It’s a situation (in Mozambique) that we as a member of SADC cannot just turn a blind eye to,” Segokgo pointed out. He warned that the “modus of operandi of these terrorism organizations is that if you should help, they will then visit yourself and the result is “that your jurisdiction” will be a haven for “terrorism activities.”
“These are challenging times of terrorism groups. How we will address it… I don’t think have answers here, Chairperson I don’t know.”
But it was important in his view, Segokgo pointed out, that since PAC is a committee of Parliament and Parliament facilitates how the army should be “able to execute the mandate that has been given to us, it is important that this is highlighted to yourselves.”
Commenting, Chairperson of PAC Dithapelo Keoraptse noted that Segokgo raised a point on the threats that Botswana should be prepared to address “citing the example of Mozambique, and the inference that one can draw from your statement is that really we can’t sort of predict the nature of future threats and given the character of our limits.”
“I don’t know what you can say regarding our very own capability. I have said this when interacting with you at another committee. The public policy position is that you keep a defence force and you keep it for a reason you can’t ignore it, you have to appropriately resource it so that it is able to deal with present and future threats,” Dithapelo said.
Replying, Segokgo conceded that “The strategic environment is very fluid chairperson. It is difficult to really pinpoint how the threats manifest themselves… what measure need to be put in place to mitigate against such a particular threat.”
But suffice to say, Segokgo said, throughout history every society has had some threats of some sorts.
“It is important that those threats are addressed,” he said adding that it was Parliament’s mandate to see to it that “you establish a defence force that its job is to address those sort of security threats.”
Segokgo assured the nation that “We will be doing our job and will look at this particular fluid situation and make sense out of it and position ourselves in a way that we will be able to mitigate threats.”
On a related issue, Segokgo noted that “…What is important is that if you decide to have a defence force then you need to spend at a minimized certain level so that this defence force not a security threat to the state itself. That’s the one thing. The other thing is that Spending is to provide a secure environment to stimulate economic growth which is one thing is lost in public discourse.”
Another PAC member Taolo Lucas wondered how Mozambique could be a security threat to Botswana.
“I never though Mozambique could be considered a threat,” he said to which Segokgo replied, “I might be misunderstood, Mozambique is not a threat. What is a threat is the terrorism that has befallen Mozambique”
Replying, Lucas said “I got the point that the threat could spill over to Botswana.”