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

Fighting continued in Cabo Delgado province as govt forces and allies redoubled efforts to tackle Islamist insurgency.

Govt launched new counter-insurgency operation in Cabo Delgado. Security forces 1 Jan undertook operation “Vulcão IV” reportedly with support of Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) in bid to clear Messalo River basin in Muidumbe district and nearby forests of northern and western Macomia district. Operation coincided with uptick in insurgent attacks and clashes between security forces and insurgents in both districts. In Macomia, Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) 8 Jan ambushed joint Mozambican and SAMIM force near Litandacua village, claimed injuring several soldiers and stealing military equipment; ISMP 22 Jan again clashed with security forces in Litandacua. In Muidumbe, fighting 9 Jan reportedly erupted between security forces and ISMP in Mandava village, leaving unconfirmed number of casualties; ISMP next day attacked military post at Xitaxi village, killing at least three soldiers, and 15 Jan reportedly launched explosive device attack against govt forces along N380 road. Also in Muidumbe, local militia 19 Jan killed six alleged ISMP militants in Namacule village. Attacks on civilians also persisted in Cabo Delgado. Notably in Nangade district, alleged ISMP 4 Jan raided Chacamba village, less than 10km from district headquarters, beheading one man and kidnapping up to three women; attack coincided with Cabo Delgado governor’s visit to area. In Mocímboa da Praia district, alleged ISMP 25 Jan entered Calugo village, reportedly to resupply themselves.

Rwandan forces expanded area of operations to southern Cabo Delgado. Rwandan security forces 12 Jan confirmed that they had deployed to Ancuabe district in southern Cabo Delgado amid ongoing operations in Palma and Mocímboa da Praia districts in province’s north.

In other important developments. Video 9 Jan emerged online allegedly showing SAMIM troops burning corpses in Nkonga forest of Nangade district in Nov 2022; SAMIM 11 Jan said it “does not condone acts reflected in the video” and announced investigation. UN World Food Programme 27 Jan announced it would as from Feb suspend food aid to people displaced by conflict in Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula provinces.

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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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