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Will President Nyusi Fully Regain Control Of Cabo Delgado?

4 Min Read

The ruthless and powerful jihadists of Al-Shabab, the group affiliated with the Islamic State could be destined for a long-term reorientation of affairs of Mozambique.

Last April, the jihadist rebellion in the greater Cabo Delgado region caused the country to lose an important contract with Total, further undermining the governance of the head of state.

This was to be the promise of a financial windfall of U$ 2 billion a year for the Mozambican state coffers. The opportunity to “prove that energy resources can be a blessing, not a curse”, declared President Filipe Nyusi during his inauguration speech for a second term on January 15, 2020.

It is now only a mirage . On April 26, the Total group once again suspended its gas site project at Afungi in northern Mozambique. In question, the growing threat of the jihadist rebellion in this region of Cabo Delgado since 2017.

The capture of the strategic port of Palma by jihadists affiliated with the Islamic State marks an unprecedented turning point in southern Africa.

Despite the support of Russian and South African mercenaries, the Mozambican army seems powerless and unable to contain the advance of the jihadists of Al-Shabab, the group affiliated with the Islamic State which took the very strategic port on March 24. de Palma, located in north-eastern Mozambique, in the province of Cabo Delgado, near Tanzania.

Al-Shabab – “young people” in Arabic – emerged around 2007 in Cabo Delgado, a predominantly Muslim province.

This network of young Salafist preachers and students, born out of a split within the government-recognized Islamic Council of Mozambique (Cislamo), opposes local Sufi Islam.

Inspired in particular by the rigorous theories of Kenyan Aboud Rogo, killed in 2012 in Mombasa, they created Koranic schools and built mosques.

They are gradually asserting their hold on the ground, building on the feeling of ethnic, economic and political exclusion that prevails in this underprivileged region.

The group intends to enforce Sharia law in areas it controls. Clashes with the Mozambican security services are increasing and the insurgents are becoming militarized.

On October 5, 2017, Al-Shabab launched its first offensive, attacking police stations in the coastal town of Mocímboa da Praia. It was the start of a cycle of violence that has continued to escalate since.

Cabo Delgado is one of the poorest regions in the country, its soil is rich. The discovery, in the 2000s, of gigantic hydrocarbon deposits attracted foreign capital, like the American Exxon Mobil, via Rovuma LNG, or the French Total, which invested 23 billion dollars in its liquefied gas project, in 2019.

In December 2020, the intensification of jihadist attacks, however, forced the French group to stop the work started on the Afungi peninsula, 10 km from Palma.

On March 24, Total obtained guarantees from Maputo regarding the security of the site, and decided to relaunch its activity. Chance of the calendar? A few hours later, Al-Shabab launches its assault on Palma.