Demoralised officers could derail Mozambique war on terror

Mozambique soldiers

from ARMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – THE Mozambican government must improve morale, or at least calm dissent, within the ranks of security personnel following reports the forces were dispirited in the fight against Islamist insurgents north of the country.

The reports have emerged as the terror in the province of Cabo Delgado surges, coming to a head recently when the militants captured Mocímboa da Praia, a port strategically important to oil and gas companies operating in the region.

Forces deployed by the government of President Felipe Nyusi have launched a counter-offensive to reclaim the area.

However, there have been disturbing reports of some disgruntlements among government forces, particularly the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR), much to fears the war against insurgents would be impacted.

UIR is a special branch of the Mozambican police (PRM).

Reports indicate some commanders are exhausted in a battle that has spiked into a full-blown conflict, from the sporadic attacks that started in 2017.

Three years later, an estimated 2 500 people have been killed during the crisis.

Bernardino Rafael, the Mozambique police chief, recently visited members of the 6th Battalion of the UIR in Pemba, the Cabo Delgado capital, and urged the personnel against raised concern on social media over payment structures.

It is believed UIR officers are aggrieved at not receiving the same “hazard pay” as members of the military.

“You cannot put a price on defense,” Rafael is quoted as telling the distressed personnel.

“How persuasive that argument is remains to be seen,” the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) reacted.

ACLED is a disaggregated data collection, analysis and crisis mapping project that has been closely covering the crisis in northern Mozambique.

In another twist, it has emerged the government has not paid bonuses promised to soldiers and health workers on duty in Cabo Delgado.

Nyusi announced the bonuses some two months ago.

“Parliament has not yet appropriated the money,” Deputy Finance Minister, Carla Louveira, told local media.

ACLED warned the delay made it more difficult for the military to curb the flow of deserters from its ranks.

“It may be a small salve to the Mozambican police, who two weeks ago were warned by their chief not to complain about being left out of the bonus scheme,” the think-tank added.

In an interview with CAJ News Africa, a security expert drew comparisons between the crisis in Mozambique and the decade-long conflict in Nigeria, where the Boko Haram terror group is wreaking havoc.

One thing in common between Boko Haram and insurgents in Mozambique, also known as Ansar al-Sunna, is that they are affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/ Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Boko Haram and Ansaral-Sunna are both engaged in violent campaigns to establish an Islamic state in the respective regions.

“Note the Boko Haram crisis started in 2009,” the expert told CAJ News Africa.

“Over a decade later, the crisis has spiraled, partly because of the demoralization among some Nigerian forces, a setback the government has conceded to.

The crisis in Mozambique has the hallmarks of escalating to dimensions similar to Nigeria should the disgruntlement among security forces prevail,” he added.

The Boko Haram has killed an estimated 35 000 people in Nigeria with mre than three million others displaced.

Attacks have spilled to neighbouring countries including Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

There are fears the Mozambique insurgency could spill to neighbouring Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional member states.

In July, ISIS issued a threat to South Africa against military intervention in Mozambique.

The Mozambican president recently stated his government would ask for foreign assistance in the conflict “if necessary.”

– CAJ News

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