Mozambique: Drugs and open secrets “wikileaked”

The first Wikileaks cables from the US Embassy in Maputo revived the discussion on narcotics smuggling that had happenned in mid 2010. Back then, the US Treasury added Mozambican businessman Mohamed Bachir Suleman to its list of international drug kingpins, sanctioning his businesses by freezing their US-held assets and preventing Americans from doing business with them. Suleman was one of a list of only 87 individuals globally. In June, this move provoked reactions in Mozambique, as Suleman is a high profile person who owns the biggest and newest shopping center in Maputo.

Maputo Shopping Center, Flickr user liam_mac_liam with CC license

Blogger Carlos Serra remarked at the time [pt] that the case had “caused a great social commotion and permanent debate in a number of sectors [of society]”. Rapper Azagaia recorded the single “Arrrri” about the case (previously mentioned by Global Voices).

Suleman's close connections to the powers in the ruling party were also no secret in Maputo. Meditabundo blog wrote [Pt]

Confesso que nao fiquei muito espantado, embora nunca tivesse colocado uma ideia semelhante na minha mente. Tem sido uma das minhas maiores preocupacoes, desvendar as (verdadeiras) fontes de rendimento dos nossos ‘empresa'rios’ mocambicanos e “ricos poli'ticos” ou “poli'ticos ricos”, como queiram.

I confess I was not that shocked, although I had never had this exact idea in mind. It has been one of my greatest concerns, to find the (true) source of the income of our Mozambican “entrepreneurs” and “rich politicians” or “politicians who happen to be rich”, as you like.

Marcelo Mosse, head of the Mozambican NGO Center for Public Integrity (CIP) published an essay in CIP's newsletter called “The Unmasking” on the growth of narcotraffic, organized crime and the ruling party. The essay was reproduced on the web by Parte1 blog [Pt]

MBS triunfava não com negócios limpos, mas porque estava ligado à droga. Por isso, todo o moçambicano que ouviu hoje a bombástica notícia, respira um alívio cúmplice: já sabíamos!!! Todos sabíamos, mas quem ousaria meter a mão num homem que alimentava o partidão?

Suleman succeeded not with clean business, but because he was linked to drugs. So every Mozambican that heard the bombastic news today breathed a sigh of complicit relief: we already knew that!!! We all knew, but who dared to touch the man who helped feed the all-powerful Party?

In early December, the first Wikileaks cables from the US Embassy in Maputo revived the “commotion”, provided a window into the Embassy's analysis of the situation in the country. The cables, written by State Department official Todd Chapman, revealed he believed Mozambique to be one of the biggest entry points for narcotics in Africa. They also allege that the former Prime Minister Luisa Diogo was involved in high-level corruption.

Long-time Mozambique watcher Joseph Hanlon, quoted by blogger Manoel De Araujo, observed [Pt]

Chapman attributes accusations of corruption against Mozambican ministers to a Mozambican businessman, whose name has been deleted by Wikileaks but who can be identified because he is the owner of the only milk processing factory in Maputo.

This source, feeling extremely exposed, recently spoke to the media and accused Chapman of sacrificing his source to promote his own personal agenda. But the allegations are powerful, and in some sense the “damage is done”.

Nacala Port in Northern Mozambique, June 2010

Meanwhile the cables call into question the role of Portuguese banks and businesses named in corruption and singled out for managing Nacala Port where narcotics allegedly enter Mozambique [Pt]. Mozambican opposition members of Parliament warn that more concrete allegations may be contained in the over 900 unpublished cables.

Commenter Queface wrote [Pt] on Carlos Serra's blog Diário de um Sociológo.

[…] o que está em jogo neste processo todo não é a reputação de Moçambique, mas as pessoas que estão a frente do país. Essas sim constituem o maior perigo para nós, o povo moçambicano.

What is at stake here is not the reputation of Mozambique, but the people who lead the country. These continue to be the biggest danger for us, the Mozambican people.

JPT from Ma-schamba blog disagreed strongly with the notion that the Wikileaks cables offered acceptable proof, writing [Pt]

A reclamação da liberdade de informação é uma falsidade gigantesca. Querem saber se há corrupção em Moçambique? Investiguem. Investiguem no terreno. Querem saber se há males no mundo? Investiguem.

The cry for freedom of information is a gigantic pretense. Do you want to know if there is corruption in Mozambique? Investigate. Investigate on the ground. Do you want to know if there are evils in the world? Investigate.

JPT was enfuriated by the decision of his co-blogger ABM to translate the cables into Portuguese and publish them, so he dramatically decided to abandon the blog he had founded [Pt]

As mensagens americanas vituperam o estado moçambicano. ABM, no seu propósito divulgador e denunciador, assume explicitamente o seu conteúdo como verdadeiro. Ora se assim é, se o Estado moçambicano assim o é, ABM inconsiderou os meus interesses e a minha situação pessoal, familiar e profissional, sabendo-me único residente, único trabalhador dependente aqui e conhecido como fundador do blog que ele utilizou para atacar o poder moçambicano.

The American cables were a harsh criticism of the Mozambican state. ABM, with his purpose to disseminate and denunciate, explicitly took on their content as true. If this is the case, if the Mozambican state is in fact this way, ABM completely disregarded my interests and my personal, familial and professional situation, knowing that I was the only resident, the only working here and also known as the founder of the blog that he used to attack Mozambican power.

And so the canonical blog Ma-schamba became collateral damage of the publishing of open secrets contained in Wikileaks.

The case of drugs, power and the Mozambican state illustrates that the explicit airing of “open secrets”, or popular versions of them, has the power to disrupt public life and seriously disturb private lives. And this is only the beginning.

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