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.
The Al-Shabab insurgency continues to pose a threat to civilians in northern Mozambique. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023, Crisis Group explains how the EU and its member states can help stabilise the area.
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.
The question is whether [the insurgency in northern Mozambique] can be nipped in the bud at this juncture without spreading further.
Rwandan and southern African troops have helped authorities fight an Islamist insurgency in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s northernmost province. The threat is greatly lowered but not yet gone. Maputo will need more military assistance as well as a nudge to address the conflict’s political roots.
In this episode of The Horn’s mini-series exploring jihadism along the East African coast, Alan Boswell talks to Dr. Adriano Nuvunga about what caused the insurgency in Mozambique to grow and the need for a coordinated regional strategy that addresses its root causes.
This special mini-series of Crisis Group’s The Horn explores jihadism along the Swahili coast. In this first episode, Alan Boswell talks to Ngala Chome about the history of militant ideologies in Eastern Africa and how states can better address their growing threat.
Online event, in partnership with the South African weekly newspaper Mail & Guardian, to discuss how to prevent the Cabo Delgado insurrection from escalating into a new frontier for global jihadism.
Deadly conflict in Mozambique’s ruby- and natural gas-rich northernmost coastal province feeds on a mix of colonial-era tensions, inequality and Islamist militancy. To tame the insurrection, Maputo needs to use force, with bespoke assistance from outside partners, and to carefully address underlying grievances.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and guest co-host Comfort Ero talk to Crisis Group’s Deputy Africa Director Dino Mahtani about the violence in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado region, Maputo’s response and prospects for a regional intervention.
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