Mozambique has been aware of radical self-styled Islamists in Cabo Delgado since 2012, President Filipe Nyusi said in his state of the nation speech on Wednesday, laying out some of what the government understands about the insurgency in the country’s north-eastern province.
The manifestation of radical Islamist groups began in 2012 in the districts of Mocímboa da Praia, Palma, Quissanga, and Nangade, Nyusi said, “promoted by a Tanzanian citizen identified as Abdul Shakulu.”
Shakulu started by encouraging disobedience against the Mozambican state, Nyusi said, prohibiting children from attending public schools and forcing them to attend madrassas instead.
While recruiting children and young people, Nyusi said, “these terrorists” encouraged people to enter mosques wearing shoes, shorts, and even blunt weapons. “Any Muslim knows that you don’t enter [a mosque] in shoes,” Nyusi said.
The government had been aware of Shakulu’s radicalisation since 2012, Nyusi said, and managed to contain it until 2017, when the first violent attack took place in Mocímboa da Praia in the month of October. The conflict has now forced 571,000 people to leave their homes, Nyusi said.
Among the terrorists captured or killed in combat, Nyusi said, are Tanzanians, Congolese, Somalis, Ugandans, Kenyans, and others from all over the world, though the largest number of recruits are Mozambicans, from the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Zambezia, and Niassa.
The leaders of the insurgency, he said, are “mostly foreign, as is the case of the Tanzanians Sheik Hibraimo (who has been killed), Sheik Hassan Mzuzuri, and Sheik Abdul Azize. Aside from those, Sheikhs Haji Hulatule and Faraj Nankalava have been killed in combat,” Nyusi said.
The group’s “known sources of financing”, Nyusi said, are looting from local populations, electronic money transfers from collaborators, and the proceeds of organised crime. But the insurgents are now facing a logistical problem — having cleared areas of their local populations, there is no one left to rob, Nyusi said.
Nyusi said his government had been criticised for taking time to ask for help, but the government is now“intensifying international cooperation to combat terrorism… always with a view to preserving national interests.” Mozambicans, he said, must be in the first line of defence of their homeland: “No one else will do it for us.”
He said Mozambique had received intentions to help from lots of countries — European, Asian, from the Americas, and from the Southern African Development Community (SADC). “We’re working out how to manage that help. We’re dealing with this in a discreet and tactical way,” he said.
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.
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