The World Today for April 23, 2024

NEED TO KNOW

Breeding Ground

MOZAMBIQUE

A jihadist insurgency with links to the Islamic State terror group has plagued Mozambique’s lawless Cabo Delgado region for more than six years. Recently, however, an upsurge in violence has forced more than 70,000 people to flee the area, reported News 24.

Local officials, however, say it’s much ado about nothing.

Speaking in the southern African country’s capital Maputo, Defense Minister Cristovao Chume played down the crisis, saying the terrorist threat was not as large as many might believe.

“If, say, two or three armed terrorists arrive in a village where there are no police or armed forces, and shoot in the air, burn two or three cars or houses in the area … the message is spread very quickly and creates panic not only in those villages but also creates national and international panic,” said Chume.

Emilia Columbo, a scholar at the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, disagrees with that assessment. Writing in World Politics Review, she believed that the Islamic insurgency in the country is making a comeback.

In 2021, for instance, jihadists struck in Palma, a town where French energy company Total was building a $20 billion natural gas facility. The attack led to the project’s suspension. That year, Rwandan security forces and international troops with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) entered Mozambique to help the government of President Filipe Nyusi fight the insurgency.

The SADC forces are now withdrawing, however, wrote African Intelligence, because, as Bloomberg reported, SADC commanders felt as if they had “paralyzed” the jihadists in Cabo Delgado.

But local officials in Cabo Delgado told Voice of America that the terrorists had gone quiet for a while but now had returned with “great fury.”

Josefina Gabriele, 40, can attest to that.

She and her family were sleeping when the insurgents arrived in her village in the north of the country.

“The sounds of gunshots woke us up, the (terrorists) began to chase people, we watched as they cut off the men’s heads with machetes, and we ran away with the little we had,” she told Agence France Presse. “They are evil.”

She was one of thousands who walked in the rain, carrying what they could, south to safety.

This ongoing threat is one reason why Rwanda plans on deploying more troops to Mozambique to help the government’s forces. Nyusi has claimed that his forces are prepared, but the Africa Report disputed that assertion. “The Mozambique army is thin on the ground, is ill-equipped and the population has no confidence in it,” wrote the news website.

The SADC forces’ success was mixed, concluded Thomas Mandrup, an associate professor at Stellenbosch University’s Security Institute for Governance and Leadership In Africa, in the Conversation. The force wasn’t large enough. It didn’t coordinate well with the Mozambican government or their Rwandan colleagues. Mozambique’s forces have yet to improve to pick up the slack, too. Meanwhile, the government isn’t taking full responsibility for the fight against insurgents, which is angering the local population.

As researchers say, it’s not surprising the insurgents are back in full force: Jihadists need these power vacuums to grow.

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