Thousands of people in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado are on the move in search of safety, as the security situation remains volatile, after last week’s brutal attacks by armed groups in Palma district. More than 9,100 people – almost half of them children arrived in Nangade, Mueda, Montepuez and Pemba districts on Good Friday, and about two-thirds of those arriving are staying with host families, who have generously opened their homes to those fleeing the violence.
Hundreds of well-armed fighters were able to overrun a town close to Africa’s largest gas project. They massacred dozens of, locals and expatriates, leaving decapitated bodies strewn around the streets. The attacks in Palma, which began on 24 March, also uprooted many who had been sheltering there after having fled conflict in other parts of Cabo Delgado. The attackers call themselves al-Shabab, an Arabic word for “the young men” or “the lads”. This is misleading as they are not the same group as Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked insurgents who also go by that name. Instead, this group pledged allegiance in 2019 to the rival IS group, based in Iraq and Syria. They have adopted the title of Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP), which again is misleading since Mozambique is not part of Central Africa.
Prior to the violence last week, nearly 670,000 – including about 160,000 women and adolescent girls as well as 19,000 pregnant women were internally displaced in Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula provinces.
Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, where they operate, is more than 1,600 km (990 miles) away from the capital Maputo but it contains the largest and richest Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) project in Africa. Operated by the French company Total, it is estimated to be worth US$60bn (£44bn) with investment from countries including the UK.
Local residents complain they have seen little of this wealth or investment passing down into their community which prompted the beginnings of the insurgency in 2017, later becoming “internationalised” as they gained support from IS.
United Nations agencies and partners, in close coordination with the Government, have stepped up their support for displaced people, distributing food rations, blankets, mattresses, and learning kits, as well as providing medical and psychosocial support to those in need. Protection agencies are also screening new arrivals to identify the most vulnerable and supporting authorities with referrals. Meanwhile, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was scheduled to attend an urgent meeting regarding the stand-off between Isis-linked militants and Mozambican forces. Addressing the media at the EFF headquarters on Tuesday, Opposition Leader Julius Malema said it was time for senseless killings to end in Africa. Calling on on government to deploy the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to Mozambique, Malema added ” The problem of Mozambique is a problem of South Africa’s. The current sponsored destruction is not accepted because it is there to destabilise Mozambique.”
By Eric Knight