President Nyusi has sleepless nights: Criminal police, abductions, harassment of foreigners hit Mozambique

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A record seizure of poached ivory and rhino horn valued at $19m has turned into an embarrassment – most of it has disappeared from guarded stores.

A SPATE of kidnappings in the Mozambican capital, alleged police involvement in organised crime, and routine harassment of foreigners are giving President Filipe Nyusi what he describes as sleepless nights.

A kidnapping of man this week in the capital, Maputo, was the ninth this year, after 30 in 2014. Nyusi, who took office in January in Mozambique, the southern African nation that may become the third-biggest liquefied natural gas exporter in a decade, has indicated he’s had enough.

“The news of policemen who join the ranks of the criminals, particularly when I am told that they have the necessary training so as not to commit the crimes they have embraced, deprives me of sleep,” he said when he addressed a parade last month in Maputo marking the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Mozambican police force.

Nyusi is planning to replace police chief Jorge Khalau, and will probably tap Jose Weng San, head of the border protection unit, to take over, the Maputo-based Savana newspaper reported May 29. Police spokesman Pedro Cossa declined to comment by phone on Friday.

“Expect changes in the leadership of intelligence and police units,” Nigel Morgan, executive chairman at risk management agency Focus Africa, said in an interview in Maputo. “The real irritant to foreigners is the persistent harassment by police. It is not just tourists—visiting businessmen and foreign embassies are tired of them too.”

The harassment of foreigners could not be more embarrassing for Mozambique, given that it has protested the xenophobic attacks of its nationals in neighbouring South Africa in recent months. As happened in 2008, one of the most dramatic killings of an immigrant this time was of a Mozambican.

Missing horns

The harassment is probably dissuading visitors interested in enjoying the country’s Indian Ocean coastline and turquoise waters or trying to cash in on the expected gas boom.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Eni SpA are among companies planning gas projects to exploit fields off northern Mozambique and may decide to proceed this year. That would trigger development that could cost as much as $100 billion, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates.

Even a record seizure of poached ivory and rhino horn valued at $19 million on May 12 has turned into an embarrassment. The force admitted two weeks later that at least 12 of 65 rhino horns have disappeared from guarded stores.

The police have yet to contradict local media reports that all the rhino horns have vanished. At least four police officers have been detained since the bounty started to go missing.

“When policemen are caught in the gangs trafficking in rhinoceros horns, elephant tusks, and various drugs, or facilitate these same crimes,” Nyusi said at the police parade, according to the state-run AIM news agency. “I am unable to sleep.”

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