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Mozambican conflict reflects governance failures: Nuvunga



THE Southern African Development Community (Sadc) should take a supportive role instead of a militaristic interventionist approach in dealing with the conflict in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado due to the complexities around the strife and risk of a regional conflagration, a Maputo-based political scientist told The NewsHawks this week.


Adriano Nuvunga, director at the Centre for Democracy and Development, said years of bad governance, marginalisation and poverty in the conflict-ridden region is at the centre of the conflict over and above violent Islamic extremism.

“The resolutions of the Sadc Troika are good on two grounds — firstly Sadc can play a pivotal role as the platform for dialogue particularly in relation to Tanzania where Mozambique and Tanzania – the relationship in term of border migration, there are issues there. We think that Sadc can be that platform for dialogue. Sadc is the most immediate multilateral organisation of which Mozambique is a member state and Mozambique can tap into the capacity within Sadc,” Nuvungu said.

“By capacity, we don’t mean military capacity. The situation in northern Mozambique is not about militarisation. It’s a failure of governance, it’s a failure of democracy. But there are questions being asked on whether or not Sadc has that capacity to support Mozambique. Some of these Sadc members are facing similar challenges in terms of governance deficit. So how can they support Mozambique which is need of strengthening  its governance mechanism. We hope to engage the technical deployment, we lobby them to make them understand that Mozambique is facing a governance challenge.”

Mozambique is facing a huge humanitarian crisis due to violent extremism in the northern Cabo Delgado region, which is home to world-class gas reserves. Experts say the political economy of the region, marginalisation and poverty fuelled violent extremism.

Last Thursday Sadc convened a double troika summit in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, in a desperate bid to quell the insurgency that has left over 2 500 dead and over 750 000 displaced.

The Sadc double troika summit directed an “immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique, and convening of an extraordinary meeting of the ministerial committee of the organ by 28 April 2021 that will report to the extraordinary organ troika summit on 29 April 2021.

The most recent attack was at Amarula Lodge in Palma were 12 nationals were beheaded, while several others were shot after militants who have pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State ambushed people who were scurrying for cover.

Nuvunga said Mozambique needs dialogue focused on conversation, intentionally engaged, with the aim of increasing understanding, addressing problems, and questioning thoughts and actions.

Since the end of the Cold War, Africa has been the theatre of numerous low-intensity conflicts fuelled by violent extremism. Though the causes for these conflicts vary greatly, they are all broadly rooted in issues of exclusion, poverty and suffering.

“This committee that is being put forward by Sadc has to look at the issues in the framework of governance rather than militaristic and more important here is to play a liaison role in relation to the African Union which has been silently and rightly so because looking at the subsidiarity issue Sadc was to come in. But we think the AU has a lot more to offer given its involvement in West Africa where these dynamics have occurred much longer,” he said.

“Well I would move away from labelling it Islamic insurgency. As I have indicated prior to gas discovery there have been ethnic conflicts in that area, but no indication that it is religious related, although there are some religious uneasiness. But there is indication that it is about religion and the right to exercise religion. So we look at it from the perspective of violent extremism.

“Before gas reserves, there have been issues in that area around ethnicity — ethnic conflicts have been occurring before gas discovery around 2005. But then they were elite-centric mining activities which is intersected by organised crime including drug trafficking and some of these have created a huge army of unemployed young people who in the past have had access to some cash but they have been losing it due to the use of the state machinery by elites who chase some of these young people from artisanal mining. These people have been instrumentalised by greed to sabotage some of the developments through organised crime. Some of the elites have been benefitting from mining without development and also intersecting with organised crime including drug trafficking.
So in our view what is happening in Cabo Delgado is that there are local grievances, but there is greed which is instrumentalising the young people and this intersects with organised crime including international terrorist organisations.”

Commenting on what role Zimbabwe may play in bringing peace to her north-eastern neighbour, Nuvunga said: “Zimbabwe is Mozambique’s key partner.

“The comradeship between Mozambique and Zimbabwe is such that no solution for Mozambique problems can be designed without direct participation of Zimbabwe understanding the current challenges that Zimbabwe is facing.

“We would like to see Zimbabwe participating more, not only in the conflict in northern Mozambique, but also in central parts of the country where we still have junta military.” 

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