“The Islamists will try to extend their influence all along the coast”

“The Islamists will try to extend their influence all along the coast”
“The Islamists will try to extend their influence all along the coast”

FIGAROVOX / INTERVIEW – For the geostrategist Gérard Chaliand, the capture of the city of Palma in Mozambique by the jihadists is explained by the lack of stability in the region. And he doesn’t see why the Islamists would stop there.

Gérard Chaliand is a geostrategist specializing in irregular conflicts. He is the author of Why are we losing the war, a new western art (Odile Jacob, 2016).


FIGAROVOX. – The port city of Palma in Mozambique fell to jihadists after an attack claimed on Monday by the terrorist group Islamic State. Mayotte is only 500 kilometers away. What could be the consequences for the French department?

Gérard CHALIAND. – There may be, indirectly, a shock wave, but I don’t think that’s the point of the maneuver. It is rather for the Islamists to descend towards the south of Mozambique towards Kilwa and Sofala, which are also old Muslim possessions from which we practiced from the VIIIe century the slave trade towards Zanzibar. There is an extremely ancient permeation of Islam in East Africa, from the coast of Somalia to southern Tanzania and southern Mozambique. In this country, we are witnessing a sort of renaissance of Islamism initiated by the Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadist groups with even greater vigor than in West Africa.

Read also :Mozambique: jihadists sow death in Palma

Is Mozambique capable of responding to or even containing the Islamist threat?

No. It is a society that has been divided since independence (Editor’s note, Mozambique is a former Portuguese colony), there is no sense of the state, the situation is very poor. As far as Westerners are concerned, our presence there will be more and more diaphanous. Who is going to go to Mozambique? Not the Portuguese. Europe is not interested in it either, as we can see from the difficulties we French have in obtaining support in the Sahel. And it is not the Americans who are going to embark on such a business. From now on, the Islamists will try to extend their influence all along the coast, as low as possible, until they brush against South Africa.

Who is going to go to Mozambique? Not the Portuguese. Europe is not interested in it either

Gérard Chaliand

ISIS is gaining ground in East Africa. How to explain it?

There is no kind of development in the region, it is one of the essential causes of the success of the Islamists. They arrive saying to the local population: “Since independence, we have seen corrupt governments, which have put their pockets in full, the population believed and we do not see any improvement. We suggest you start from scratch, on new bases ”. The vocabulary they use, the implantation techniques and the enthusiasm of the activists, also contribute to their success.

What are the Islamists looking for in the region? Are they aimed at economic interests?

They are looking for power. The economic results of the Islamists are zero. What did they achieve in Afghanistan? What have they achieved here or there? Not much. They impose a morality, a way of life, an ideology, but they do not help economic growth. Economic growth is precisely the solution to get out of this situation.

Islamists seek power

Gérard Chaliand

What are the prospects for Total’s gas project in Mozambique?

I cannot answer you with certainty, but one can cast doubts on the viability of the project in the long term.

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