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Reports of Its Youth Joining Terrorist Groups Concern Tanzania

According to Tanzania’s Chief of Defense Force, General Jacob John Nkunda, the youth are reportedly joining the extremist groups in DRC, Mozambique, and Somalia.

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Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is concerned about the recruitment of its youth, ranging from 15 to 35 years old, who join terrorist groups, including the Mozambique-based Ansar Al Sunna Wal Jammah.

Speaking on Monday during an annual meeting of the defence forces commanders, Tanzania’s Chief of Defense Force, General Jacob John Mkunda, said: “Terrorist networks have been recruiting our youth of age between 15 years and 35 years, and transporting them to join terrorist groups in countries including DRC, Mozambique, and Somalia.” 

The Commander in Chief of the defence forces, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who officiated the gathering, echoed Mkunda’s sentiment, calling on relevant organs to build the capacity to identify, analyse the groups and assess the terrorist threat they pose to Tanzania. 

READ MORE: Why Did It Take Tanzania Eighteen Years to Ratify OAU Convention on Terrorism?

“We can’t say these groups are based in DRC or Mozambique if there are Tanzanians in those groups,” President Samia said. “We can’t know when they will return and do terrorism in the country.”

President Samia’s articulation couldn’t be more accurate as several Tanzanians have been caught or alleged to be engaging in terrorist groups. 

For example, in November 2023, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said that a leader of a terrorist group by the name of Abu wa Kasi who identifeid as Tanzanian Arab was responsible for the Mpondwe Lhubiriha terrorist attack in Uganda.

In 2022, The Chanzo reported that several youths in Zanzibar were going missing, and most of them were suspected of joining terrorist networks.

Shifting in approach

Tanzania’s admission of a terrorism problem in the country is a shift in its policy which was registered in 2021. Before this shift, the East African nation’s approach to combating terrorism was secretive and only involved a security angle. 

To date, the country is employing two approaches: a security component and a civilian approach.

In terms of security response, Tanzania contributes troops to the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) and the country also has a bilateral agreement with Mozambique in which the country is contributing forces outside SAMIM. 

The defence forces have been undertaking several operations inside the country to curtail some of the terrorism threats.

In his address on Monday, Mkunda said that the Tanzania People’s Defense Force (TPDF) continues with internal operations, including Operation Mamba in the Mtwara and Ruvuma regions, to counter terrorist threats along the country’s southern border.

 “As mentioned earlier, the presence of this operation has successfully prevented terrorist groups from Mozambique from crossing the border and carrying out terrorist activities in our country,” he said.

READ MORE: Police in Tanzania Responds to U.S. Embassy’s Terrorism Alert

Mkunda added that the last terrorist attack was on December 10, 2021, which was preceded by the one on October 21, 2020, where over 300 insurgents attacked a group of people in Kitaya village, Mtwara.

The civilian approach to countering terrorist acts includes a direct information sharing of details, community awareness as well as re-introduction of community policing.

In risky areas such as Mtwara, there is also a growing involvement of civilians especially in identifying people who are visiting the area. For example, in several areas of rural Mtwara there are several make-shift check posts marked with civilians. 

These civilians would take details of the people who are visiting the areas, including their identities, as well as ask questions such as what is the purpose of their visits. The civilians are connected through their village governments.

Underscoring the complexity of current security risks, President Samia urged Tanzania’s military to build its technology capacity, saying: “We used to fight an enemy we can see, but with the development of technology, we are now fighting the enemy that we cannot see unless we are also good at using technology. We need to transform ourselves, to change our strategies and methods.”

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