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, amid faltering security operations and gradual withdrawal of international troops; preparations for Oct general election continued. 

Jihadist activity continued to plague Cabo Delgado, including targeting civilians. Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) attacks remained at low-level following fasting for religious month of Ramadan from March to early April. Incidents of violence, however, continued including group 9 April beheading four people caught making alcoholic drinks in Namaluco village, Quissanga district, and kidnapping several others. Govt early April launched anti-militant operations with some success in dispersing insurgents from Mucojo and Quissanga districts, although ISMP fighters, who may now total 350-500, continued to have free movement in much of province; meanwhile, locals accused military of killing several civilians in helicopter fire in Mucojo town 6 April, with accusations army unable to differentiate between insurgents and civilians worsening relationship between local communities and security forces. In neighbouring Nampula province, local sources reported insurgents 25-26 April carried out assault on three villages in Eráti district, reportedly killing at least one civilian in first attack in province in several years. Meanwhile, Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) continued gradual drawdown of troops from Cabo Delgado with Botswana 5 April and Lesotho 14 April completing withdrawals. South Africa 22 April announced extension of 1,500 strong force deployment until end of year on bilateral basis, although concerns remained over security gaps in province ahead of 15 July deadline for formal withdrawal of all SAMIM forces.

Preparation for Oct polls continued with jostling for presidential candidacies. Ruling-FRELIMO party central committee 5-6 April met and although no candidate yet decided, four potential names considered included former PM Diogo. Meanwhile, main opposition RENAMO 15 April announced preconditions for competing for its presidency that included holding senior role in party; move in effect bans Venâncio Mondlane, primary opponent of party chief Ossufo Momade, from running for opposition candidacy. Final decision on both parties’ candidates expected after respective general congresses in May. Parliament 30 April began discussing several electoral bills put forward by opposition parties.

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