from Africa in Transition, Africa Program, and U.S. Interests in Africa

Foreign Involvement Growing in Mozambique Counterinsurgency

Security officials stand guard as people wait for friends and relatives as a ship carrying more than 1,000 people fleeing an attack claimed by Islamic State-linked insurgents on the town of Palma, docks in Pemba, Mozambique on April 1, 2021.
Security officials stand guard as people wait for friends and relatives as a ship carrying more than 1,000 people fleeing an attack claimed by Islamic State-linked insurgents on the town of Palma, docks in Pemba, Mozambique on April 1, 2021. Emidio Jozine/Reuters

April 6, 2021
12:04 pm (EST)

Security officials stand guard as people wait for friends and relatives as a ship carrying more than 1,000 people fleeing an attack claimed by Islamic State-linked insurgents on the town of Palma, docks in Pemba, Mozambique on April 1, 2021.
Security officials stand guard as people wait for friends and relatives as a ship carrying more than 1,000 people fleeing an attack claimed by Islamic State-linked insurgents on the town of Palma, docks in Pemba, Mozambique on April 1, 2021. Emidio Jozine/Reuters
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Jihadi attacks in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province are accelerating, with heavy fighting breaking out around the town of Palma. In response, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa sent South African troops to evacuate South African nationals. The French oil and gas company Total has evacuated its employees from its Afungi gas facility and suspended construction on a $20 billion project.

The Maputo government has, for much of the insurgency, routinely declined international help. But with the jihadi group Ansar al Sunna (ASWJ) increasing in strength, international assistance is now being accepted with greater regularity. Thus far, the Biden administration has sent a special forces detachment to provide counterinsurgency training to Mozambican forces. Portugal and the European Union are offering assistance as well. Maputo has requested military assistance from South Africa, but Ramaphosa declined on the basis that the insurgency is too big for a bilateral response. Meanwhile, the contract with South African private military contractor Dyck Advisory Group will not be renewed.

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Mozambique

South Africa

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Islamic State

Regional Organizations

The relevant multilateral security pact in the region is the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which will meet on Thursday to discuss the situation in northern Mozambique but apparently lacks the necessary funding to provide significant assistance. Further potential outside financial assistance from the European Union, South Africa, or the United States should not be ruled out, though it is unclear at present what the method of providing such assistance would be. SADC has not been particularly successful at conflict resolution and donors may well seek a different vehicle for providing their assistance.

More on:

Mozambique

South Africa

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Islamic State

Regional Organizations

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