AFRICA/MOZAMBIQUE – Attacks on civilians move to the south of the province of Cabo Delgado

Maputo – More than 784,000 have been displaced in northern Mozambique due to violence perpetrated by non-state armed groups, mainly by the self-proclaimed Mozambican Province of ISIS. This is reported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees , which reiterates its concern for the protection and humanitarian needs of the displaced and the host communities in Cabo Delgado and neighboring provinces. The offensive led by the Mozambican army with the support of the Rwandan military and other southern African countries has allowed them to regain control of several areas occupied by the insurgency, but the militants of ISIS Mozambique are still capable of attacking villages, forcing its inhabitants to flee. The armed groups have so far operated mainly in the far northeast of Cabo Delgado province, near the border with Tanzania. But in early June, a series of attacks took place further south, in Ancuabe district, 45 km from the port city of Pemba, the provincial capital. An area that until now was considered “safe”, to the point of hosting thousands of displaced people from the north of the province. To further spread terror, victims of jihadists are beheaded and ISIS in Mozambique has increased its propaganda activities on the Internet. One of the responses to the crisis given by the Maputo authorities is the recruitment of local militiamen from the Makonde ethnic group, made up mostly of Christians, something that could further fuel the conflict. According to an analysis by the Institute for Security Studies , an independent South African research institute, the militia is seen in the region as a tool of the predominantly Christian Makonde ethnic group, which was created to fight armed groups perceived as “kimwani” and mostly composed of Muslims from the coastal areas of Cabo Delgado.
“Known as a local force, they are mainly veterans of the national liberation struggle against Portuguese colonialism and their children are part of the dominant Makonde ethnic group. The militias operate mainly in the interior and try to prevent the insurgency from spreading from coastal areas”, the study reads. “In the attacks by armed groups on the areas inhabited by the Kimwani and Makonde, the houses burned by the insurgents are mainly of Makonde Christians”, says the report, which highlights an ethnic dimension of the conflict that has so far been ignored. Just as the sources of terrorist financing are unknown, perhaps linked to the growing number of kidnappings of members of wealthy families in the big cities of Mozambique. Some analysts suspect that kidnapping ransoms serve to feed the guerrillas in Cabo Delgado.

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