Since 2017, Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s northernmost province, is the scene of a deadly insurrection. While foreigners have joined in the name of jihad, most of the Mozambican rank and file militants are motivated by their perceived socio-economic exclusion amid major mineral and hydrocarbon discoveries in the region. The conflict threatens national stability, just as Mozambique is fulfilling a peace deal with the country’s main opposition group in the center of Mozambique, and risks becoming a new frontier for global jihad to exploit. Crisis Group advocates for bespoke military support from external actors, dialogue with the Mozambican rank and file and measures to address the underlying frustrations that led these militants to take up arms.

CrisisWatch Mozambique

Unchanged Situation

Islamist insurgents launched series of attacks on Cabo Delgado province’s main highways during visit of TotalEnergies’ head, while also trying to garner support from residents.

Insurgent attacks persisted notably in Cabo Delgado’s central districts. In Meluco district, alleged Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) 1-4 Feb launched ambushes along N380 road connecting Cabo Delgado’s capital Pemba to province’s north, killing up to seven people near 19 de Outubro village and at least one civilian near Mitambo village. In Mueda district, ISMP 4 Feb attacked Chapa village on R698 road connecting Mueda to Montepuez towns, beheading at least two civilians and kidnapping several others. Further south in Montepuez district, ISMP same day entered Namoro village, also located along R698 road, and set several buildings on fire; 12-13 Feb raided military outpost at Nairoto village, reportedly killing five soldiers and prompting UK-based precious stone mining company Gemfields to 14 Feb evacuate staff from nearby exploration camp. As levels of violence decreased in second half of Feb, govt forces together with Rwandan troops 27 Feb captured at least ten militants after shootout in Makulo, Cabecera and Malinde villages in Mocímboa da Praia district.

Insurgents reached out to villagers in apparent change of strategy. Alleged ISMP militants 3 and 7 Feb appeared in Maculo village, Mocímboa da Praia district, called on residents to cooperate with them rather than with security forces. In Montepuez district, alleged ISMP elements around 9 Feb left handwritten note in settlement near Nairoto village, imploring villagers not to fear insurgency. Emerging trend could aim to garner support from population and secure supply lines to offset ISMP’s gradual losses since deployment of Rwandan and Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique troops in 2021.

TotalEnergies CEO in Cabo Delgado to assess resuming operations. TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanné 3 Feb visited site of group’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Afungi Peninsula, Palma district, as part of determining when company will resume operations (on hold since April 2021 due to insecurity); same day met with President Nyusi in Pemba as Maputo bets on resumption of LNG project to attract other investors.

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In The News

8 Apr 2021
The question is whether [the insurgency in northern Mozambique] can be nipped in the bud at this juncture without spreading further. AFP

Piers Pigou

Former Senior Consultant, Southern Africa

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