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

Islamic State militants remained active in northern Cabo Delgado province; tensions over general elections set for October continued to grow. 

Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) militants remained threat in north. Insurgents continued to move freely around districts of Cabo Delgado including along coast in Macomia, Mocímboa da Praia and Quissanga, with several villages in all three districts left deserted as people feared for safety; reports of presence of group 19 June caused panic in Macomia town, which suffered large-scale assault in May. Violence continued as ISMP 19 June attacked Mbau town, Mocímboa da Praia, where Rwandan and local militia troops are stationed, reportedly killing four civilians; at least one soldier killed same day in Nambala village, Macomia, after triggering explosive device set by insurgents. ISMP also increased activity in Cabo Delgado’s southern districts of Chiúre, Mecufi and Metuge, raising concerns over potential attack near provincial capital Pemba; in Chiúre, residents of Mazeze town 18 June sought refuge in forest amid militant movement nearby. Threat of spillover to neighbouring Nampula province, where militants were spotted 18 June, also remained prevalent. Despite insecurity, govt continued to downplay severity of situation; President Nyusi 16 June said govt and international forces had managed to expel militants from district capitals and destroyed all of group’s permanent bases, although observers questioned assessment. 

Political tensions mounted ahead of Oct votes. Confusion and uncertainty around upcoming general elections remained high with parties and electoral commission differing on electoral calendars, campaigning rules and more. Nyusi’s 30 May veto of revision to electoral law that would have allowed district courts to order recounts fuelled concerns over potential restrictions on free and fair vote; electoral commission 10 June admitted it had inadvertently registered over 800,000 non-existent voters, primarily in ruling FRELIMO party strongholds. Meanwhile, thousands of voters in Cabo Delgado were unable to register or collect voting cards due to insecurity.

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