/ 31 January 2022

War in Mozambique follows those who fled from the coast

Topshot Mozambique Rwanda Unrest
Soldiers patrol in front of a burned truck carrying the inscription "Shabaab Chinja" referring to the jihadist group in Mocimboa da Praia. (Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP)

The insurgency in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province has shifted west, with communities attacked and thousands displaced as forces from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) continue the operations they began last year.

Following the recapture of Mocimboa da Praia, with its strategic harbour and airport, soldiers have worked to secure areas that are critical to gas exploitation —  by and large along the eastern coastal area.

Under that pressure, insurgents began focusing their raids further west, across the provincial border and into the district of Mecula, which itself borders Tanzania at the Ruvuma River.

Local sources tell The Continent that insurgents attacked the community of Naulala just before Christmas. They looted the local health post, taking medicines and medical equipment, robbing stalls and looting food products. The local chief’s home was burned down. Another attack was reported nearby on 27 December, in which five residents were killed. The governor of the province told The Continent last week however that “the current situation is calm”.

About four thousand people have been displaced by such attacks, adding to the six thousand people already displaced in the province — a third of whom had themselves arrived from Cabo Delgado, then in the throes of the initial insurgency.

This month, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, renewed their agreement for Rwandan troops to stay in Cabo Delgado, with no details about when they will leave provided. The deployment started at a thousand soldiers and police and has since doubled. SADC’s mission has also had its mandate extended for another three months.

Adriano Nuvunga, head of the Maputo-based Centre for Democracy and Development, said Mozambique’s SADC neighbours have an important role to play, adding it is “also a way of pre-empting, right at the beginning, the potential regional impact” of the insurgency. 

This article first appeared in The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here