15 December 2017
Moments after swearing new ministers, Mozambican President Felipe Jacinto Nyusi made an abrupt visit to Tanzania’s capital Dodoma for one-day state visit. President Nyusi sacked four ministers – foreign minister, energy, industry and trade and agriculture in a surprise move a day earlier. He was met and welcomed in Dodoma by his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli and a host of other dignitaries. His visit to Tanzania comes at a time when Mozambique is facing security challenges in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. The Mozambican government, in late November, 2017 ordered the closure of three mosques in the city of Pemba after attacks linked to Islamic extremists. The attacks in October, 2017 saw an attack in police stations in Mocimboa, a town close to the Tanzanian border. The area is close to Tanzania’s natural gas rich towns of Mtwara and Lindi.
Through an official government press release, Tanzania says that Mr. Nyusi’s visit was aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries. Acknowledging the abruptness of the visit, Mr. Nyusi, thanked his host for his welcome and spoke on the main agenda of his visit – which included security (at the border), economic and transport. Speaking in Kiswahili, President Nyusi subtly stressed on the security challenge at the border. “…we have spoken about those that want to destabilize the border, we have been welcomed well and I anticipate President Magufuli’s visit to Mozambique.”
President Nyusi becomes the first head of state to visit the ‘new’ capital Dodoma. Government relocation to the designated capital Dodoma has been one of President Magufuli’s action plans after he was elected president in 2015. On his part, President Magufuli spoke on the enduring relationship between the two countries stressing that his government is committed to deepening trade and economic ties. Thabit Jacob, a scholar on the political economy of extractive resources believes that these ties can be enhanced through recent natural gas boom with both countries planning to build LNG plants in collaboration with international oil companies. “The threat from Islamic militants, and Tanzanian illegal miners in Niassa as well as LNG politics could have motivated the visit of President Nyusi,” observed Thabit Jacob.
What the visit means
Longstanding US diplomatic traditions has seen many American presidents making their first official foreign travels to either Canada or Mexico. Tanzania’s longstanding ties with Mozambique has also seen many Tanzanian presidents making their early official visits to Mozambique. President Magufuli is yet to make an official visit to Mozambique, two years into his tenure. However, it can be read as a mark of enduring Tanzania-Mozambique ties for Nyusi to be the first head of state to visit the ‘new’ designated capital, Dodoma. Dastan Kweka, an East African foreign policy analyst however thinks that Tanzania has often treated Mozambique as a ‘junior’ partner. “When Nyusi was nominated by his party Frelimo as the presidential flagbearer in 2014, he was hosted by President Kikwete in Tanga. Nyusi now followed Magufuli to Dodoma, where he was officiating party and national functions,” observed Dastan Kweka.
Growing security threats linked to organized militancy within Tanzania (Kibiti) and in Mozambique (Cabo Delgado) means that the two countries can jointly take security measures aimed at thwarting these organized networks. The mode of attacks by these ‘terror’ gangs is similar in both countries. Both in Kibiti and Pemba (Cabo Delgado) these groups are attacking and killing police officers. In response to the attacks in northern Mozambique, President Nyusi sacked the head of intelligence and the army as well as replacing the governor of the northern province of Cabo Delgado. It is thought that President Magufuli replaced the former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ernest Mangu after series of insecurity incidences in the country including the attacks in Kibiti.
Having discussed the common security challenges in the two countries, the discussion from the visit mean that both Tanzania and Mozambique are committed to dealing with insecurity and especially the threat from Islamic militant groups.