Stabilising Mozambique will take time, says Institute for Security Studies

Mozambique's northernmost province of Cabo Delgado has since 2017 been home to a festering insurgency, linked to Islamic State.
Mozambique's northernmost province of Cabo Delgado has since 2017 been home to a festering insurgency, linked to Islamic State.
Image: supplied

While there is a glimmer of hope for Mozambique, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) believes it will take time to stabilise the situation on the ground and resume economic activity after SA’s intervention to help combat terrorism and violent extremism in Cabo Delgado province.

“From our perspective, this is something that is not going to be over in a flash,” said ISS senior researcher Liesl Louw-Vaudran.

Mozambique was besieged by insurgents in March allegedly linked to the Islamic State who overran the gas fields town of Palma, killing dozens of people and displacing many.

In June, during the extraordinary summit in Maputo, Sadc heads of state approved the deployment of standby forces to deal with terrorism in Mozambique.

SA responded by deploying 1,495 troops for three months (ending on October 15) at a cost of R984m.

Louw-Vaudran explained that to secure the whole area over a long period and assist people to return to their villages would probably require other skills.

“It would need something more focused on intelligence and securing borders than this kind of offensive attack, as we saw the Rwandans do in these past couple of days.”

Louw-Vaudran said time would tell whether SA troops would be deployed for longer than three months.

“The SA deployment is over phases and that is what has been budgeted for. Remember we are also securing the maritime routes and there is one SA vessel there on the shore of Cabo Delgado and that is very expensive,” she said, adding she doubted that the mission would cost more than the almost R1bn budgeted for.

Louw-Vaudran said the port of Mocímboa da Praia that had been occupied by insurgents in Cabo Delgado since August 2020, had been taken over by the Mozambican military “thanks to the Rwandan military intervention”. 

Rwanda is said to have deployed about 1,000 troops and police to help the Mozambican government. Louw-Vaudran said the Sadc launched its mission officially on Monday and the troops were mostly from Botswana and SA, and a few from Angola and Lesotho.

“Zimbabwe, at this point, is apparently doing training of Mozambican soldiers and so the Sadc force is deployed elsewhere and will probably be making efforts to secure the rest of other areas of Cabo Delgado that are still under control and where the insurgents still have bases.”

This, she said, was a significant development.

“The freeing and liberating of Mocímboa da Praia [is significant]. The question now will be to what extent the insurgence will continue. We already have reports that they have been attacking some of the villages as they were fleeing northwards to the Tanzanian border, but we do not have credible reports of any big bases or any insurgence in Tanzania. Rather, they are still bases in the forest areas around Mocímboa da Praia.”

However, she said, the situation is “still extremely dire and there is a lot of insecurity”.

“An estimated 800,000 people had to flee their homes, some of them in very difficult situations and it is a very complex situation, but finally there is an effort to restore security to the region.

“Eventually, probably in a couple of months, if they can continue securing the strategic areas, the economic activities can resume, like liquefied natural gas, people can hopefully return to their villages, fishermen can return to take up their activities and people can farm. That would be the best suitable outcome.”

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