Since 2017, Mozambique has faced difficulties with an Islamic insurgency in its northernmost province, Cabo Delgado. Around a year ago, the port of Mocímboa da Praia became the headquarters of the Islamic group al-Shabaab, a major concern not only for Mozambique’s government, but neighboring states as well. The province is of great importance to the Mozambican government, due to its large reserves of natural gas located off the shore. If the jihadists managed to establish a foothold in the region, this could also mean a spread of unrest in nearby countries that have their own social tensions.
However, on Sunday 8 August, Rwandan forces managed to capture the port held by the jihadists. These troops, alongside other forces from neighboring countries, are assisting Mozambique after hesitancy from the country’s government in order not to “internationalize” the conflict like what happened in Mali. The Rwandan Defense Force spokesman, Ronald Rwivanga, stated that this was the last stronghold held by the insurgents, and as such marked the end of the first phase of counterinsurgency operations. Although this operation was a success, the insurgency has been costly to Mozambique and its people. If peace is to truly be established in the province, the issues that allowed this insurgency to happen must be addressed.
Despite recapturing a crucial stronghold for the Islamic extremists, the cost of four years of conflict has led to several consequences for Mozambicans. Firstly, more than 720,000 people have become refugees due to the violence and unrest in the province of Cabo Delgado since 2017, with 335,000 children losing their homes. Additionally, more than 3,000 people were also killed in the conflict. The insurgency has been largely defeated at a heavy price, and the next steps of the Mozambican government will determine whether this conflict will truly be resolved in the long-term.
Although there have been many military victories over the insurgents, fixing the social issues that allowed the insurgency to be so successful and last for so long must be addressed, in order to effectively reinstate peace in the country. Rwandan and Mozambican forces may have taken the last stronghold of the insurgency. But assisting the hundreds of thousands of displaced, and addressing the social problems in the region is the only way stability will be regained and hopefully maintained.
Former President Joaquim Chissano even said the government should perhaps start a dialogue to end the violence. He also said that the causes behind violence in the province needs to be studied to solve the current military and social crisis. The motivations for the insurgency to begin in the first place include high levels of poverty and unemployment, leading to the militants gaining large amounts of recruits in a short period of time. For unrest to truly be solved, it will take more than military victories to accomplish peace, even though the success achieved by the RDF and Mozambican forces this weekend is a step in the right direction.
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