On July 12th, the European Union announced their decision to establish a military training mission in Mozambique, where an Islamist insurgency has resulted in increasing violence. This declaration came in response to a request from Mozambican officials for additional support in countering the rebellion.
The primary intent of the resolution is to support and train military forces currently in the country, as to offer greater protection to civilians and encourage the restoration of safety and security in the Cabo Delgado province, an area that is currently under significant threat. The training will include the deployment of 200 to 300 people by the end of 2021, and includes instruction on counter-terrorism, operational preparation, and human rights laws. Portugal, the former colonial power of Mozambique, has expressed their commitment to support the mission by sending a Portuguese national as a commander on the ground and offering to contribute 50% of the personnel sent by the EU.
The rebellion has garnered attention as a critical issue for the country’s growth and security. Lise Grande, the president and CEO of the U.S. Institute of Peace, stated in a panel discussion on the East African country that “the situation in Cabo Delgado presents an urgent humanitarian crisis and threatens the important progress towards peace, prosperity and democracy that Mozambique has made since the early 1990s.” As a result of the insurgency, the Mozambican populace has been subjected to continuous violence and instability.
While the decision to encourage and support military forces has been viewed a practical answer to the conflict, the probability of it leading to a peaceful resolution is small. Countering the high levels of violence that have overtaken the region with additional violence and aggression is not conducive for ending the insurrection in a manner that is efficient or safe for the locals. According to the BBC, the death toll of the Islamist rebellion stands at over 2,800 people since the conflict began in 2017. With the lives of thousands already taken, and even more still being threatened, supporting the military risks further suffering. An effective, peaceful solution to the conflict must involve interacting with the insurgents. Understanding the social, political, and economic plights that fuel their cause, and working to resolve them, is essential.
The Islamist insurrection in Mozambique, led by a group called al-Shabaab, has been active and violent for the past four years. One of the most impacted areas, the province of Cabo Delgado, has seen a majority of the conflict’s attacks on people and natural gas projects. The Council of the EU places an estimated 1.3 million people in Cabo Delgado and the surrounding provinces of Nampula and Niassa in dire need of immediate protection and humanitarian relief. Additionally, an increase in violence within the past year has contributed to the internal displacement of over 700,000 people in Mozambique. The disaster extends to the youth as well; a report from Save the Children has collected accounts from multiple Mozambican families detailing the brutal executions of their children. The severity of the rebellion has disrupted the society in the country on multiple levels.
Finding alternative measures to counter the current violence in Mozambique is necessary for long-term peace. Violent suppression with no lasting change to address the source of the problem damages any chance at preventing similar situations in the future. Combative action holds the potential of leading to increased deaths, displacements, and disarray as the military escalates internal friction. In this case, the focus of the European Union should be to stimulate peacebuilding with an understanding of what ignited the aggression and how it can be remedied. Encouraging an open dialogue between the government and the public is necessary for advancing peace, and that includes hearing and handling the complaints and concerns of Mozambican locals. Both the EU and Mozambique itself need to promote the security of its citizens and tackle the humanitarian crisis in a manner that builds a civil society based on progress and trust.