In recent conversations with rhino conservation stakeholders Pot-Shot has learnt that there are increasing indications that the Mozambican opposition movement Renamo is actively involved in rhino poaching as a means of funding their organization. The recent incidents of violence in the Gorongosa region has raised fears that Renamo may be considering a wider scale resumption of hostilities since it declared an end to the 1992 Peace Agreement a week ago following a government attack on a Renamo base in central Mozambique. Renamo was one of the two belligerent parties in the devastating Mozambican civil war that raged from 1975 until 1992 and left approximately a million people dead.
One of Pot-Shot’s sources said that in a recent discussion with a senior police officer in Skukuza it was revealed that the SAPS has obtained substantiation within the past several weeks linking Renamo to poaching activity in the Kruger National Park. Recent reports say that poaching is mainly conducted by Mozambicans who are supposedly highly trained, well armed, and well-versed in military tactics. As a movement with decades of experience in guerrilla warfare Renamo is able to supply not only ground teams with shooters but also the logistical support to move horns removed from rhino carcasses back into Mozambique where it possesses the infrastructure to effectively smuggle the contraband out of the country.
The Vietnamese telecom Movitel is also currently the third active cellular network service provider in Mozambique. The Movitel mobile network footprint has been established by developing a fibre-optics network instead of relying solely on transmitter towers, which means that hundreds of Vietnamese technicians have established grass-roots infrastructure in numerous villages across a large part of Mozambique. With Vietnam being the world’s biggest consumer of rhino horn, it is feared that certain individuals working for Movitel are involved in the illicit trade as intermediaries between Renamo and dealers in Southeast Asia.
Another worrying trend seen over the past number of weeks in Mozambique has been the kidnapping of children for ransom of certain high-ranking and prominent people in Maputo. Current conjecture is that this may also be part of a Renamo campaign to generate cash.
“What is worrying about the possibility of Renamo engaging in rhino poaching as a means of filling its war chest now that hostilities have a possibility of increasing is that this could lead to a substantial escalation in rhino poaching on South Africa’s border with Mozambique”, Pot-Shot’s source said.
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