The recent attack by ISIL-linked terrorists in the northern Mozambican city of Palma, which left many civilians dead and displaced 30,000, has prompted them to point out that Africa is now a hotbed of global terrorist attacks and should be the next leader in the “war on war”. Such a plan, if unchecked, could lead to war in the region, but the military cannot stop it, and could exacerbate the problem of terrorism in Mozambique.
North, East, and West Africa have been a hotbed of terrorist activity for over a decade. From the very beginning, international and regional organizations and governments in Western and Africa have been working to address this issue by increasing their participation in the war in this region.
For example, the United States has 29 corporations in 15 countries or territories across Africa, mainly in the Sahel and Horn of Africa. France has been leading the largest foreign war operation, Operation Barkhane, in the Sahel region since 2014. The 4,500-person operation against terrorists involving Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger has a budget of more than $ 700m a year. Meanwhile, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has been supporting Federal Government forces in fighting Al-Shabab for more than a decade.
But the presence of so many militias will create a major victory against thousands of African terrorist groups.
For example, in northeastern Nigeria, Nigerian security forces have been waging war against Boko Haram with foreign support. However, the group continues to wreak havoc in the region to this day. Meanwhile, in East Africa, al-Shabab still has the potential to pose threats even while AMISOM countries are down, American drones in the air, and increasing Western military support to the region.
From Somalia to Nigeria and Kenya, governments across the region have failed to recognize and address the root causes of the uprising. Instead, he called all terrorists “terrorists”, exaggerated the links between local terrorists and international terrorist groups, and tried to turn them into militias. This was not only useless but also led to a violation of human rights by the security services.
All of this has led to a growing lack of trust between the areas affected by terrorism and the growing number of government officials. Terrorist groups began using human rights and security violations as a tool to recruit people and increase their power.
Until recently, South Africa had no guerrillas and had been rescued from devastating wars that had taken place in other parts of the continent. But terrorists in northern Mozambique, which began in 2017, changed this.
Terrorism in northern Mozambique has been fueled by widespread poverty and inequality in the region.
The coastal region of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique, where the recent demonstrations took place, is rich in natural resources. In 2011, about $ 150bn natural oil fields were discovered about 40 kms (30 miles) off the coast of Cabo Delgado.
Today, Cabo Delgado is home to three major Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) projects in Africa: a $ 20bn Project (Complete, formerly Anadarko), a $ 4.7bn Coral FLNG Project (ENI and ExxonMobil), and Rovuma LNG Project (ExxonMobil, ENI and CNPC) cost $ 30bn.
And gas is not the only resource in the region. Coins excavated in Cabo Delgado are also selling for millions of dollars. In 2014 alone, gemstones from the Montepuez mine sold for $ 407m.
In the midst of all this wealth, however, the local people of Cabo Delgado live in extreme poverty. A 2016 study by the UN University World Institute for Development Economics Research found that 90% of households in the northern regions of Mozambique, including Cabo Delgado, have disappeared, while less than 10% of families in the southern regions are considered missing.
The economic disparity between the north and the south of the country is exacerbated by the implementation of major LNG projects in the region, as profits in these areas have benefited foreign currency and Mozambican elites instead of locals.
The growing tensions in the region led young men in the area to join militant groups led by mature foreign preachers who claimed to be fighting for justice and equality. As the militants began to attack oil and security services, the Mozambican government and the secret mining industry responded by increasing the number of troops in the region.
The first terrorist attacks were carried out with unarmed weapons and were very rare. But as high-tech weapons began to flow into the area in the hands of the security forces, this changed dramatically. Terrorists began looting government property and looting weapons, and these weapons were used in mass demonstrations. Meanwhile, ISIL (ISIS) has begun claiming to have strong ties and leading militants in northern Mozambique to show resilience when lost in the Middle East.
The terrorists increased their numbers and persecution in 2020. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), the group has staged more than 570 demonstrations since January 2020.
In response, in March 2021, the US government department identified the terrorists, called ISIS-Mozambique, Ansar al-Sunna or locally as al-Shabab in Mozambique, as a foreign terrorist group. It also imposed sanctions on the group’s leader, Abu Yasir Hassan.
A few weeks later, at the end of March, the rebels stormed the city of Palma, killing many people, including several foreign nationals. This aroused the interest of international journalists in the region and led to reports of a new resurgence of ISIL in Africa, although experts and experts insist that communication between Mozambican terrorists and the international violence group is “difficult”.
In early April, the US Department of Defense announced its plan to send 12 Green Green Berets to the region to train Mozambican troops. Portugal, which ruled Mozambique for nearly 400 years until gaining independence in 1975, also sent 60 special forces to train local troops.
Even before the recent threats that sparked global interest in the region, the builders of several secret societies were supporting the efforts of Mozambican authorities to stamp out the insurgency.
Dyck Advisory Group, a business security company, led by retired Zimbabwean Colonel Lionel Dyck, has worked in northern Mozambique for over a year. The group entered the region after the Russian state-owned company Wagner, which sent 2,000 men, left after losing 10 men at the end of 2019.
Dyck Advisory is not the only military company operating in Mozambique today. In February this year, Paramount South Africa, and its partner company Dubai Burnham Global, announced a multi-million dollar partnership with the African government, believed to be Mozambique, to provide various military and technical training.
Because Washington has described Ansar al-Sunna as a terrorist group and the level of violence in the region, the Cabo Delgado war is expected to intensify in the coming months.
But as we have seen elsewhere in Africa and in the last four years in Mozambique, fighting does not stop violence – it leads to more violence, anger and, consequently, more violence.
According to Amnesty International, terrorists and security forces in the Mozambican government and civilian contractors operating in Cabo Delgado have “severely violated international law” in recent years.
Instead of ensuring that more natural resources were used to alleviate poverty, the government chose to deal with the terrorists during the war and to ignore the human rights violations perpetrated by its security forces and foreign allies, and to provide fertile ground for recruiting terrorists.
By quickly referring to the terrorists as “terrorists”, the US also said that more and more wars were the only way to reach the region. Indeed, names like these encourage nations to adopt more aggressive tactics and to prevent allies from participating in terrorist activities, creating a non-military response to the issue. The mention of terrorists also helps to motivate the terrorists, encourage them to be more violent and to seek help from established terrorist organizations.
In the end, the Mozambican government will not end the violence in Cabo Delgado through other wars. Defeating Ansar al-Sunna does not require military forces and weapons but negotiations and development. When local authorities and their allies fail to see this, the region will experience violence, conflict, and death.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor of Al Jazeera.