The World Food Programme is warning that thousands have been forced to flee their homes and are at risk of hunger in northern Mozambique, where an Islamist insurgency is escalating.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi announced on Wednesday that Mozambique is open to international support to combat terrorism.
He was speaking at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the session is being held in a virtual formal, and so, like many other leaders, Nyusi was not in attendance physically, but sent a recording of his speech.
He said the enormous efforts Mozambique has made to consolidate peace and security “have been put to the test by terrorism in some districts of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, and armed actions by alleged dissidents from Renamo in parts of Manica and Sofala”.
The terrorists, he accused, “kill people in a heinous manner, cause mass displacement, destroy homes and social and economic infrastructures, loot goods from communities and keep women and children in captivity”.
As a result of the terrorist raids in Cabo Delgado, he added, “more than a thousand people have been murdered and about 250,000 have been displaced from their homes”.
The government had responded firmly, continued Nyusi, “by defending the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to protect the people and their property. It has also mobilised humanitarian support for the displaced”.
Since Mozambique is well aware that the terrorist activities in Cabo Delgado “have links with international groups involved in transnational organised crime, we have tried to deal with this phenomenon in cooperation with other countries and regional and international organisations”.
In this context, he added, “we welcome all initiatives and partnerships which help complement the efforts under way, seeking to contain the nefarious actions of the terrorists in our country”.
Nyusi stressed Mozambique’s commitment to multilateralism, which he regarded as “fundamental, when we consider that the economy of the world, and particularly of developing countries, has been severely lacerated by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Restructuring the economy requires global, integrated and concerted interventions”.
He warned that “nationalism and isolationism in the face of a pandemic are a recipe for failure”.
Multilateral intervention, led by the United Nations, was also required in order to respond to other challenges, including climate change, terrorism, cyber-security, and industrialisation.
In today’s “global village”, Nyusi said, the boundary between national and international questions was ever less visible, “The transnational nature and interconnection of these phenomena demand a leadership which recognises that our interventions should take into account the intrinsic relation between national, regional and global citizens”, he declared.
Nyusi stressed Mozambique’s commitment to reform of the United Nations, and expressed concern at “the lack of progress in the inter-governmental negotiations so that reform of the Security Council may have results that are in line with the 21st century”.
Such reforms should make the UN “more representative, efficient and transparent”, which could give decisions taken by the Security Council “greater effectiveness and legitimacy”.
Fear. A lot of fear. This is the description most often heard from residents of Palma, the district hosting multi-million dollar Rovuma basin natural gas projects rolling and, perhaps because of that, the target of terrorist attacks.
The sentiment is accompanied by the often-reiterated imperative to leave the district for other regions, but, given the danger of travelling on almost all the roads out of the district, many have alternative but the sea route or staying put.
A resident of Palma village says people are forced to go indoors by around 5:30 pm, and are practically forbidden to use bathrooms located only a few metres away at night.
“At night, we use gallon drums inside the house as a lavatory. Even talking on the phone at night is dangerous,” Aruna Faque, who fled from Mocímboa da Praia to Palma, relates.
Her brother, who declined to be named, said another concern was running out of essential products in the coming days. “The Bengalis who lately provided most basic necessities have shut up shop and are preparing to leave,” he says.
It’s worse now than when one of his colleagues was killed, one source said, recalling the recent death of a trader in an ambush just over a week ago.
Recent information indicates that around 30 people were killed in the ambush on a truck near Pundanhar in which the trader lost his life.
The trucks ambushed were themselves transporting people and goods escaping insecurity in Palma, bound for Nangade or places of safety further afield.
The Nangade-Palma route was still considered impassable for civilian freight and passenger vehicles on Saturday, the source reported, and the “big boats” which had left Palma for Pemba in search of food and other goods had not yet returned, boding ill for a village with already scant food stocks.
For the population, the strong Defence and Security Forces presence does not in itself guarantee security – not least because most of the military are stationed close to LNG project sites.
It has requested support in logistics and specialised training for its soldiers.
The southern African nation has been fighting the insurgents for three years with little success. At least 1,500 people have been killed and an estimated 250,000 have fled their homes.
The government has lost control of three coastal districts.
Foreign Affairs Minister Veronica Macamo has written to Brussels requesting the support after the EU expressed its willingness to assist.
In the letter, Ms Macamo also asked for assistance in development programmes as a way of reducing the vulnerability of the locals, mainly young people, to the allure of joining the insurgents.