Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique has been witnessing an escalation in attacks by Islamic State (IS) since March 2020 at a time when the government is mobilizing its efforts and resources to fight the corona epidemic and counter its possible consequences. This raises a number of questions about the limits of control by IS and its capacity to expand, the challenges facing the government in combating terrorism, the possible risks of the expansion by the terrorist organization in Mozambique and neighbouring countries, and the possible scenarios for the efforts of combating IS.
Causes of the spread of corona epidemic in Mozambique
Rising IS activity in Mozambique
Counter-terrorism challenges and their implications for government efforts
Risks of IS expansion in Mozambique and the region
Possible scenarios for IS expansion and counter-terrorism efforts
First scenario: control by IS over the Cabo Delgado province and declaring it an IS province. IS benefits from the limited presence of the army and security forces, their preoccupation with countering the spread of the corona epidemic, the continued expansion by RENAMO party of its operations in the country’s central areas, the implications of the spread of coronavirus that threaten natural gas and mining projects, and the state of emergency that threatens the occurrence of large-scale social troubles. This helps IS recruit more unemployed people. However, the security re-deployment operations, backed by private military companies, continue to pose a challenge to IS’ control over vast areas. Besides, IS currently focuses on enhancing its arms and combat capabilities and driving government forces from the region.
Second scenario: resorting to private military companies to weaken IS and re-negotiating with the insurgents, especially that IS’ geographical control continues to be limited. Besides, the government is increasingly interested in reaching a peace deal, and there is international and regional support for those efforts. However, this scenario faces the difficulty of continued defection among insurgents and the rejection by some factions to negotiate with the government. In addition, continuing to resort to private military companies faces legal challenges and local criticisms that fuel the environment of insurgency and terrorism.
Third scenario: request for regional and international intervention to combat terrorism. During the UK-Africa Summit in January 2020, President Filipe Nyusi had called for an international intervention. He also attended a special meeting of the Organ of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Politics, Defence and Security on 15 May 2020, which released a statement in support of counter-terrorism efforts in Mozambique. According to sources, the South African military’s 43 Brigade is undertaking a planning effort to conceptualize how the South African military might assist Mozambican security forces. However, preoccupation by western countries and countries of southern Africa with countering the COVID-19 crisis continues to pose a significant challenge to counter-terrorism efforts in the region.
References and sources
 "UNICEF Mozambique COVID-19 Situation Report No.3, 14 MAY 2020," available at: https://reliefweb.int/report/mozambique/unicef-mozambique-covid-19-situation-report-no-3-14-may-2020
 Miguel Angel Jimenez and Egas Daniel, "Mozambique’s response to COVID-19: Challenges and questions," The International Growth Centre (IGC), available at: https://www.theigc.org/blog/mozambiques-response-to-covid-19-challenges-and-questions
 United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research, "Is Mozambique prepared for a lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic?," available at: https://www.wider.unu.edu/publication/mozambique-prepared-lockdown-during-covid-19-pandemic
 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), Cabo Ligado Weekly: 10-17 May 2020, 20/5/2020, available at: https://acleddata.com-Cabo%20Ligado%20Weekly%2010-17%20May%202020.pdf
 Salvador Forquilha and João Pereira, Faced with the Conflict in the North, what Can Mozambique learn from its civil war (1976 – 1992)? An Analysis of the Dynamics of the Insurgency In Cabo Delgado, Informação sobre Desenvolvimento Instituições e Análise Social, 12 May, 2020.
 Mohamed Abdel-Karim, “An Eye on Africa (1-8 April 2020): Rise of Hidden Violence in Mozambique, Qiraat Africa. Available at: https://bit.ly/3dvdluA
 Sérgio Chichava, ”Who is “the enemy” attacking Cabo Delgado? Short presentation of the hypotheses of the Mozambican government”, Informação sobre De senvolvimento, Instituições e Análise Social, 28 de Abril de 2020.
 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), op. cit, available at: https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/2030218/acleddata.com-Cabo+Ligado+Weekly+10-17+May+2020.pdf
 Shannon Ebrahim, "The AU must act against Mozambique’s very real IS threat," 19/4/2020, available at: https://www.iol.co.za/news/opinion/the-au-must-act-against-mozambiques-very-real-is-threat-46895025
 "New threats to peace in Mozambique," PSC REPORT, 24/11/2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3cmVxR8
 Alex Vines OBE, "Why The Insurgency in Northern Mozambique Has Got Worse," 1/4/2020, available at: https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/why-insurgency-northern-mozambique-has-got-worse
 Brian M. Perkins, "The Emerging Triad of Islamic State Central Africa Province," Terrorism Monitor, Volume Xviii, Issue 5, March 11, 2020, pp.7,8.
 Ibid, p. 8.
 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), Cabo Ligado Weekly: 18-24 May 2020, May 26, 2020.
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