A new wave of jihadist violence is driving thousands of people to flee Mozambique's troubled province of Cabo Delgado. Important raw material extraction projects in the region are on hold.
Also close to Metuge district in the provincial capital of Pemba, attacks are forcing people to flee
Rosa Bernardo, 29 years old, lived until recently in a small village about 60 kilometers west of Pemba, capital of the troubled Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado. Then so-called “Al-Shabab fighters” attacked her village and put houses and huts in Brand. The mother of three was just able to flee south with her children.
Her home village in the district of Ancuabe, near which there is a large graphite mining area, was until then – due to the relative Proximity to the provincial capital – as relatively safe. Now it is practically gone: Almost all residents have either fled or are dead. At least four residents are said to have been beheaded during the raids by the Islamist militia, which has ties to IS.
Pemba, the provincial capital, was previously considered relatively safe. But the violence is getting closer.
“At the time of the attack, I was fetching water from a spring outside the village. That's the only reason we're still alive,” Rosa Bernardo told the DW reporter. Rosa Bernardo says that she and her three children wandered around in the bush for four days, subsisting on roots and cassava, until they were discovered by government soldiers and taken to the Corrane refugee camp in the neighboring province of Nampula.
Help for people fleeing
Thousands of other people from Cabo Delgado share the fate of Rosa Bernardo: According to the UN, around 10,000 people had to leave their villages in the first three weeks of June 2022 alone.
“A solution to the war in the resource-rich province of Cabo Delgado, which has been smoldering since 2017, still seems a long way off,” says Alberto Armando, provincial delegate of the Mozambique Institute for Disaster Management (INGD). In a DW interview, he explains that in Corrane – the largest center for internally displaced people in Nampula – there is only room for around 500 refugees. An attempt is being made to provide all refugees with the bare essentials: tents, blankets, food. But it's not enough for everyone. Most of the displaced people in Corrane tell the DW reporter that they have no adequate housing and sometimes even go hungry.
After the capture of Mocímboa da Praia in 2020, many people fled to Nampula. But their supply is threatened.
According to the International Organization for Migration, a subsidiary of the United Nations, the number of internally displaced people as a result of the conflict in Cabo Delgado has risen to a total of 784,000 since 2017. The number of dead in the course of the conflict is estimated at around 4,000. According to the UN, almost 79,000 people in Mozambique were forced to leave their villages due to violence in the past year alone. According to authorities, the number of children displaced by the conflict has risen from 370,000 to more than 400,000.
The military response
“For a long time, the government in Maputo didn't take the problem seriously,” human rights activist Emídio Beula from the Mozambique NGO Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) told DW. That only changed when the jihadists took the important coastal town of Mocímboa da Praia in March 2020 and hoisted IS flags there. Only with the support of 2,000 soldiers from Rwanda, and later 3,000 soldiers from eight Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, could government forces in 2021 retake the areas of northern Cabo Delgado that were under the control of the jihadists.< /p>
The symbolic aid from Rwanda (left: Rwanda's President Paul Kagame; next to him is Mozambique's Filipe Nyusi) is a lot been discussed
“The fact is that the problem was only shifted to other areas after the jihadists were driven out of northern Cabo Delgado,” says activist Beula. The district of Ancuabo, where Rosa Bernardo and her family lived, had recently become one of the newly affected areas. “Despite the official statement that the terrorists are being pushed back, the government has no idea where the terrorists are fleeing to. The risk of the conflict spreading to the capital, Cabo Delgados, but also to the neighboring provinces of Niassa and Nampula, is greater than ever. “
Security issues jeopardize investments
The expulsion is “clearly the main problem,” says Beula. But the economic damage is also enormous: In the north of the province of Cabo Delgado, the largest oil and gas project of the French energy company Total has been interrupted for safety reasons until further notice. Therefore, the Mozambican security forces initially focused on liberating the areas near Total's project. The problem has now shifted to other areas further south.
Now the graphite mining projects near Ancuabe have had to be suspended for safety reasons. The construction of a solar energy project in Metoro was interrupted. And last but not least, the British group Gemfields had to reduce ruby mining in Montepuez. In a statement, the company described the looming terrorist threat. It is following developments closely and is in close contact with the government.
Is the violence reaching the provincial capital of Pemba?
Last Tuesday, 20 kilometers from Pemba, jihadists demolished several houses and vehicles on fire. The attack was aimed at the town of Mieze, where Cabo Delgado's largest prison is located. “Violent extremists are being held in this prison,” says Emídio Beula, adding that there have already been two attempts to attack the prison to free the terrorists: “It seems the terrorists are getting bolder. Now they're coming Impacts getting closer and closer to the capital.”
Collaboration: Sitoi Lutxeque (Nampula)