Fish, mis­siles, tanks, and trawlers: Mozam­bique’s strange trade with North Korea

Business World - - OPINION - By David McKen­zie

Griffiths, chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor of the UN Panel of Ex­perts mon­i­tor­ing the trade. The cur­rency and rev­enues gen­er­ated from all this ac­tiv­ity can be used to fund North Korea’s nu­clear and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grammes, he added.

UN and US in­ves­ti­ga­tors are tak­ing a much closer look at African coun­tries’ re­la­tion­ships to North Korea, in­ves­ti­gat­ing at least eleven dif­fer­ent na­tions. Many African lib­er­a­tion move­ments had ties and sup­port from the North Korean regime be­fore in­de­pen­dence and through the Cold War, though the ex­tent of the con­nec­tions has been ques­tioned.

Ma­puto has one ob­vi­ous re­minder of Mozam­bique’s re­la­tion­ship with Py­ongyang: a bronze statue of Samora Machel, the coun­try’s found­ing pres­i­dent, erected in 2011 and built by North Korea. It is an­other ex­am­ple of Py­ongyang’s strange statue- mak­ing busi­ness, which was tar­geted by fresh UN sanc­tions in 2016. Mozam­bique, one of the world’s poor­est coun­tries, faces the dif­fi­cult choice be­tween lu­cra­tive North Korean con­tracts and keep­ing the US and UN happy. The coun­try re­ceived more than half a bil­lion dol­lars from US agen­cies in 2016 alone.

For its part, Mozam­bique de­nies any wrong­do­ing: “At this mo­ment, we are im­ple­ment­ing all the sanc­tions that were de­clared by the United Na­tions against North Korea,” Al­varo O’da Silva, a di­rec­tor at Mozam­bique’s for­eign min­istry, told us. But he later back­tracked, say­ing he didn’t have “de­tailed in­for­ma­tion” about sanc­tions.

Amid this swirl of ev­i­dence, the North Korean fish­er­men re­main in their boats. Oc­ca­sion­ally wan­der­ing into Ma­puto for a lit­tle shop­ping, they qui­etly go about their busi­ness, un­fazed by the geopo­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of their stay.

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