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

Deteriorated Situation

Jihadist attacks surged in northern Cabo Delgado province, undermining govt’s claim of return to stability. 

Islamic State-affiliated militants intensified attacks in Cabo Delgado. Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) from late Dec until 20 Jan carried out at least fourteen attacks, primarily in Mocímboa da Praia, Macomia and Muidumbe districts, leading to dozens of deaths and kidnappings. Notably, ISMP attack 5 Jan killed at least four people in Chimbanga village, Mocímboa da Praia. UN 22 Jan said attacks in Macomia and Muidumbe 26 Dec-17 Jan displaced 5,343 people amid reports of food shortages. ISMP 21 Jan reportedly occupied strategic Mucojo village in Macomia district, marking first significant settlement held by ISMP since it was expelled from Mbau town (Mocímboa da Praia) in Aug 2021; Mozambican troops abandoned their position after receiving threats from militants, amid reports suggesting deteriorating relations between Mucojo residents and military after troops mid Jan killed three civilians. ISMP explicitly linked series of attacks to Islamic State’s central command’s 4 Jan call for global offensive and 30 Jan said “preaching trip” was under way in northern Mozambique.

Attacks undermined govt’s claim that ISMP no longer poses threat. Bishop of Pemba diocese 2 Jan warned of “attitude of complacency” over situation in Cabo Delgado, while Denis Hurley Peace Institute of Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference 17 Jan accused Rwandan and Mozambican troops of preventing people from fleeing Mocímboa da Praia. Surge in attacks also heightened concerns that withdrawal of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), due to be completed by July, may be premature. Meanwhile international commission, announced late Nov by president of Islamic Council of Mozambique, in Jan began work to promote talks between govt and insurgents in Cabo Delgado. 

Political fallout from contested municipal elections continued. Attorney General 9 Jan dismissed request from main opposition party RENAMO to suspend Constitutional Council ruling that validated results of Oct local elections. Divisions also emerged within RENAMO after spokesperson 4 Jan announced current leader Ossufo Momade will be candidate in presidential election due to be held in Oct; others in party wished to wait for vote at party congress.

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