Mozambique’s Islamist insurgency

Mozambique is stepping up plans to formalise international help to combat the Islamist insurgency in gas-rich Cabo Delgado province. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) the European Union, France, the US, Portugal and possibly others have all offered Maputo support to combat the Ansar al-Sunna Wa Jamo (ASWJ) insurgents who swear allegiance to IS and are also known as Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP).

Aid groups in northern Mozambique say attacks on civilians have displaced close to 400,000 people during three years of Islamist terrorism. Official sources said the three leaders – who constitute the troika of SADC’s security organ – made the trip to Maputo to consult Nyusi because he had failed to show up at a summit of the troika in Gaborone late last month, to discuss the regional response to the insurgency.

Regional governments were dismayed by Nyusi’s no-show as well as what they regarded as an inadequate presentation by his Defence Minister, Jaime Neto, on Mozambique’s plan to deal with the insurgency. One official shared that Neto had presented not a plan or strategy but merely a “shopping list” of arms, equipment and ammunition that Maputo would like from SADC and others.

President Filipe Nyusi, giving his annual state of the nation address to parliament on Wednesday, also highlighted how the insurgents are trying to recruit adherents in provinces outside Cabo Delgado, which will concern SADC states that border Mozambique.

Police forces from both Tanzania and Mozambique have agreed to conduct joint operations against terrorist groups at their shared border following an attack in October in which more than 20 locals in a Tanzanian village were beheaded.

The security situation will be of concern to oil and gas players as the country host’s the Total-led Mozambique LNG development as well as ExxonMobil’s planned Rovuma LNG project, among other huge gas schemes.

Delivering the State of the Nation Address in Mozambique’s Parliament on Wednesday, Nyusi seemed to rule out any foreign troop intervention and defended his secrecy about his plans. He said that Mozambique was stepping up international cooperation to combat terrorism, but stressed that national sovereignty was paramount.

“This is fundamental,” Nyusi declared. “We Mozambicans need to develop our own skills. We will be on the front line of defending the country. Nobody will do it for us.”

By Karishma Gwalani

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