‘Resource control at heart of Moza instability’

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Harare - Field research by University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa scholar Linos Mapfumo indicates the insurgency in northern Mozambique has its roots in religious, economic and ideological factors.

Armed extremist Islamist insurgents have wreaked havoc in Cabo Delgado province since 2017, and fighting has escalated over the past six months.  

To date, more than 1,200 lives have been lost because of the insurgency, and over 200,000 people have been displaced as the Islamic State-affiliated Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASWJ) seeks to establish a caliphate in the region.

Mapfumo’s research says, “The growing popularity of ASWJ among the people of Cabo Delgado indicates worrying social cleavages and the growing rift between the general populace and the ruling elite. This social alienation and disillusionment is happening at the same time that northern Mozambique is quickly emerging as a hub and transit route for an illicit economy dominated by drug trafficking, poaching and illegal trading in timber, rubies and ivory.

“A general assessment of the conflict situation within the province shows that grievances are primarily driven by feelings of exclusion among the local population in the exploitation of the state’s natural resources. Despite their resource abundance, Cabo Delgado is the least developed province in Mozambique.

“The province is dominated by dilapidated infrastructure, high poverty rates and a lack of access to social services. The situation is further compounded by the complicated series of underlying factors such as conflict over land, controversy over a resettlement programme as well as communities’ distrust of their local political actors.”

The study says the insurgents have taken advantage of perceived economic exclusion of locals in Cabo Delgado, which is home to the largest gas investment in Africa’s history.

The gas fields in northern Mozambique have attracted international investment worth a combined US$60 billion.

“… while the region is awash with rich mineral resources, locals are at the economic periphery in terms of both employment opportunities and profit sharing. Instead, the process of awarding concessions is murky. For instance, in several cases where natural resources have been found, the indigenous population has been unilaterally driven off their land without fair and just compensation…

“The security situation in northern Mozambique suggests a need for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to intervene, in particular, and the international community, in general.

“This assistance would aim to come up with speedy and extensive counter measures that not only address the conflict situation, but help the local populace to participate in the exploitation of natural resources. This chapter will therefore discuss the impact of, and unpack, the intricacies of Cabo Delgado’s political economy in the face of violent extremism and the illicit economy.

“The growing insecurity has hampered development and service delivery to the province, leading to further underdevelopment. It has also affected food security in the province as locals now have restricted access to their crops and livelihoods. If not well managed, the constellation of violent extremism and the illicit economy could result in regional insecurity with serious consequences,” the research says.

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