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

Jihadist attacks continued in northern Cabo Delgado province, although slowed mid-month; Oct general election preparations progressed haltingly.

Islamic State-affiliated militants focused on Ibo and Quissanga districts. Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) continued to target security forces and civilians in Cabo Delgado province with dozens of attacks between late Feb and 6 March; militants also appeared to be systemically looting areas and re-supplying its base in Mucojo town, Macomia district, including taking food and goods from Quissanga town 2 March; next day, insurgents attacked nearby Quirimba island, Ibo district, leaving nine soldiers dead. ISMP fighters involved in Feb assault on southern Chiúre district returned north early March; free movement of militants highlighted weakness of security forces, whose blanket orders to evacuate some areas worsened humanitarian situation and angered locals. UN 8 March reported over 110,000 displaced since uptick in militant operations began late Dec. Attacks subsequently slowed mid-month amid fasting for religious month of Ramadan that began 11 March. Heavy rains which limited security operations may also have curbed militants’ movements; end of religious holiday on 10 April and of rainy season could see levels of violence rise again in coming weeks. Meanwhile, govt 13 March said it had identified new leadership in ISMP, mainly based in Macomia and Quissanga districts. Earlier, President Nyusi 3 March announced Algeria pledged support in anti-terror fight in Cabo Delgado. 

Preparation for Oct polls faced challenges. Electoral commission 15 March began registering voters, open until 28 April; insecurity and technical glitches delayed process in some areas including parts of Cabo Delgado, while reports emerged that officials were prioritising voters from ruling FRELIMO party; meanwhile, pro-govt Naparama militia members 8 March beat to death three election officials in Chiúre after mistaking them for insurgents. Both FRELIMO and main opposition RENAMO continued to struggle to designate respective presidential candidates.

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