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.
Protests erupted as opposition denounced fraud in municipal elections, with violence and repression leaving several people dead; insurgent activity remained low in northern Cabo Delgado province.
Municipal elections marred by deadly violence. Municipal elections, seen as test for presidential election due in 2024, held 11 Oct. Election day went relatively smoothly, but violence broke out in following days. Notably, police 12 Oct brutally dispersed gathering of RENAMO opposition party supporters in Chiúre district, Cabo Delgado province, killing 16-year-old boy. Ruling FRELIMO party 15 Oct claimed victory in all but one of 65 municipalities. Opposition immediately accused FRELIMO of influencing vote counting and 17 Oct held nationwide protests; police crackdown reportedly left dozens wounded notably in capital Maputo and Nampula city. Unrest worsened after electoral commission 26 Oct confirmed FRELIMO’s victory in all but one municipality. Opposition supporters 27 Oct took to streets in several cities to decry results and dismiss elections as rigged; police suppressed protests notably in Nampula, with nine civilians and one police officer reportedly injured, and 60 people detained. Violence next day broke out again, including in Maputo as security forces reportedly used tear gas and live bullets to disperse protesters; at least three people killed. Police late Oct accused RENAMO of using homemade explosives during unrest, while National Human Rights Commission 30 Oct criticised “indiscriminate” use of force by police against demonstrators.
Activity of Islamic State-affiliated militants remained limited in Cabo Delgado. In Macomia district, suspected Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) militants 13 Oct killed two hunters near Chai village, and around 20 Oct reportedly kidnapped two fishermen near Litandacua village. In Mocímboa da Praia district, fear of ISMP attacks early Oct led to displacement of almost 5,000 people from several villages; local source claimed militants 16 Oct kidnapped at least three men from Awasse village.
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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