Islamists in Northern Mozambique Announce Plans for a Caliphate

The violence left at least 900 people dead, according to a count by the NGO Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), and caused the displacement of at least 150,000 people, according to the authorities.

The government of President Filipe Nyusi has sent a substantial number of troops to the area, but has been able to impose order in the Cabo Delgado region, where he launched his political career.He has also failed to carry out his commitment to “eliminate” this insugents, to which he keeps referring as “criminals”.

Last year, just before the October general election, Nyusi deployed mercenaries from the Russian private security firm Wagner to the restless region, but their operation ended in a stinging failure and the Russians hastily retreated.

Since last November, the president has turned to Western private security companies, but military analysts say it is doubtful these private armies have the capacity to push back the Islamists.

It can work in the short term because the government’s lack of resources prevents it from repelling the Islamists on its own,” said independent analyst Jasmine Opperman. “But I doubt it in the long run, a military operation will not erase that the Cabo Delgado has been forgotten (by the authorities) for so long.”

The northeastern region of Mozambique, on the border with Tanzania, is among the poorest in the country, but the recent discovery of huge gas fields off its coast, and the arrival of large multinationals such as American Exxon-Mobil and the French Total, raised hopes in the region that the central government would now have access to funds to invest in improving the region’s infrastructure.

The discovery of the vast natural gas reserves off the coast of the province has led some analysts to speculate that the insurgents are not truly jihadists, but rather mercenaries masquerading as Islamists in order to gain control of the province and its natural gas reserves.

The fact that recent attacks have spared civilians suggests that what is happening could hide a war for natural resources,” said Professor Adriano Nuvunga, of Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo. “Perhaps the insurgents are the cousins of our soldiers …”

Whether the insurgents threatening to create a caliphate are truly Islamists, or mercenaries masquerading as ones, analysts agree that there is no military solution to the problem, and that the only way to prevent the emergence of a breakaway region is a comprehensive plan by the government which will address the sense of resentment and anger among the region’s inhabitants.

In a nutshell, force will not solve the problem,” said Jasmine Operman. “The government needs a comprehensive solution of which the military is only one part. Otherwise it will fail.”

This article is republished courtesy of the Voice of America (VOA)