Militarization of Cabo Delgado likely to prolong the insurgency

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The government’s tendency to deploy police and military in almost every part of Cabo Delgado province, including in district administration positions, will prolong, not solve, the problem of extremist attacks, analysts warn

A new administrator was appointed to the district of Macomia, one of the most affected by extremist attacks in Cabo Delgado, in June — coming from the ranks of the national police force. Tomás Bedae had been the Commander of the Lakes and Rivers Police Regiment of Cabo Delgado province, until the appointment.

Bedae took office with his colleague Ana Combo, appointed to lead the district of Mueda, the home town of President Filipe Nyusi and the location of the main military base for the north of the country. Until her new appointment, Combo was the director of the ‘Lieutenant General Oswaldo Assahel Tazama’ police sergeants’ college, in Nhamatanda, Sofala province.

The new administrators join other members of the Defence and Security Forces (FDS) who exert de facto control over certain districts, such as Quissanga, which, according to one well-placed source on the ground, is “completely militarised”. Both the population and members of the local government have fled to safer areas, the source said.

Quissanga has a very strong military presence aimed at preventing attackers from reaching the city of Pemba by land, a military source confirmed to Zitamar News.

In districts which have been under attack and where there is a strong military presence, including Mueda, the police and military have imposed curfews. Civilians caught outside their homes after 8pm have been subjected to interrogation and torture.

The militarization of Cabo Delgado, and indiscriminate action by the FDS against unarmed populations, may set the stage for more conflicts for many more years, said Jerry Manghezi, a researcher at think tank, the Observatory of the Rural Environment.

According to Manghezi, many people already felt excluded from accessing state resources, and when the FDS started attacking them, they stopped collaborating and started protecting the supposed insurgents.

Given the complexity of the Cabo Delgado conflict, coordinated action is extremely important to mitigate it, said Manghezi.

“Military intervention must not be lacking, but the state should focus more on actions that promote local development, providing more basic public services,” he told Zitamar, suggesting the creation of employment opportunities for youth and access to finance for small businesses.

The Mozambican government has created the Agência de Desenvolvimento Integrado da Região Norte (ADIN), a public institution that, according to President Nyusi, should promote development “especially in areas where terrorists and enemies of peace destroy and manipulate young people to fight their own brothers”.

For analyst Eric Morier-Genoud, a lecturer in African history at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the creation of the ADIN seems to indicate a turning point in the government’s strategy towards Cabo Delgado, in favour of a broader solution which also addresses the economic and social aspects of the conflict.

“It is interesting to note that this new strategy covers not only Cabo Delgado, but also other northern provinces of the country,” Morier-Genoud said, in reference to Nampula and Niassa. “If well implemented, it should be a significant and productive turnaround.” 

Under the administrative supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the ADIN is to be headed by 77-year-old Armando Panguene, a senior member of Frelimo, with a long career in the military. He is a veteran of the liberation struggle and was once Minister of Defence.

Manghezi warns, however, that if the agency is not properly managed and, like other state-owned entities, is used as a way to channel resources towards the political elite, then it will be “worthless” and will only “further promote the conflict.”

This article was produced by Zitamar and Mediafax under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED and with support from Crisis Group. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.

© 2020, ZITAMAR NEWS. All rights reserved.

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