Accessibility links

Breaking News

Mozambique: Force Brought "Greater Stability" to Troubled Region

FILE - Rwandan soldiers patrol in the village of Mute, in Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique, Aug. 9, 2021.

Mozambique’s government says its troops and foreign forces, have brought “greater stability” to its northern Cabo Delgado province. Since October 2017, three-and-a-half-thousand people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in what Maputo calls an “Islamic terrorist insurgency.”

Troops from Rwanda and several Southern African countries have been battling extremists who claim affiliation to the Islamic State, or ISIS, international terror network. The insurgents say they’re fighting to improve the lives of local residents.

The fighting has centered on Mozambique's Cabo Delgado, which has immense wealth, including oil, natural gas and gemstones. Yet its people remain poor.

Mozambique-focused analyst Joseph Hanlon argues that “external Islamic aggression” is not central to the conflict. He says it suits Maputo to present it that way and cast itself as the primary victim - but it's the people who have lost.

"Are these really faceless people?" Hanlon asks. "Or, are there grievances about lack of jobs, marginalization and the failure of the majority to benefit from resources? This has clearly split {Mozambique's dominant political party] FRELIMO. The official line is, there are no grievances. But even (prominent Mozambican human rights activist) Graca Machel and Radio Mozambique are now raising the issue of grievances.”

Professor Armindo Ngunga is chairman of the government’s Integrated Development Agency for the North.

Ngunga insists his agency’s priority is to “make better lives.” He says when “terrorist attacks” waned a few months ago, it opened a window for “rebuilding” in Cabo Delgado.

He said "That’s when the pledge was made to invite donors for the reconstruction of Cabo Delgado. The government set up a plan for the reconstruction of Cabo Delgado, which is worth 300-million US dollars.”

But Hanlon says Maputo’s “Reconstruction Plan” is instead aimed at facilitating government access to Cabo Delgado’s natural resources by constructing state buildings, roads and communications infrastructure. He says the plan doesn’t mention anything about job creation or how residents could benefit from the vast wealth under their feet and in their seas.

"The government’s not encouraging the 800,000 displaced people to return home," he says. "Instead, it wants the aid industry to take care of them where they are now, indefinitely.”

Ngunga responds that it’s still too dangerous for most people to return home because the “terrorists” remain a threat.

But Hanlon’s convinced that safety and development of Cabo Delgado people is a “side issue.” The government, he maintains, is focused on access to the province’s riches. And, he says, the government is also hampering aid efforts to the people.

"There are currently four different aid groupings trying to coordinate foreign aid in Cabo Delgado," Hanlon says, "while the government is trying to force the aid through the Council of Ministers and President Nyusi."

Civil society groups say one solution is an independent organization administering funds and coordinating development in Cabo Delgado… But, says Hanlon, that would still leave all the natural resource wealth in the hands of the government, and the discontent that’s driving the conflict will continue.