Staff Reporter – The Zimbabwe Daily

Pemba, Mozambique – They are now several calls for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to intervene in Mozambique’s Islamist insurgencies which have since left more than 1 000 people dead.

Many are worrying that if the insurgencies are not controlled now, they might spiral into other SADC states similar to the scenario of Boko Haram in West Africa.

“The massacres, beheadings, torture and violent conflict engulfing towns in northern Mozambique cannot be left as an island unto itself for the government of Mozambique to handle.

Now that the problem poses a threat to the regional peace and security of the southern African region, the onus is on all regional governments to become part of the solution.

- Advertisement -

This week, the Islamic State threatened that if South Africa puts forces on the ground in Mozambique then it would open fighting fronts within the borders of South Africa. This makes military involvement by South Africa in the counter-insurgency campaign a huge risk.

There will be no quick-fix to this problem given that the conflict is complex, multilayered and asymmetrical. The region needs to devise a co-ordinated response and a common front. 

In order to defeat the insurgency, the region will have to have a clear understanding of who they are fighting against and what is driving them. The insurgency has gained in strength and confidence since it pledged allegiance to Islamic State last year, which started taking responsibility for attacks.

While material deprivation, marginalisation and poverty remain root causes of the restiveness, religion has been a key factor. Muslims have been radicalised by extremist preachers from Kenya and Tanzania over many years. Kenyan Islamist militants had sought refuge in Tanzania, and when they were repressed there, they moved on and settled in Northern Mozambique.

Moreso, the movement began in 2007 as a religious sect which locals called al-Shabaab, which rejected the secular state and wanted to impose Sharia rule. They tore down Christian crosses and statues of Mozambique’s independence leaders Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel. 

Now that the group has pledged allegiance to Islamic State and is formally part of the Islamic State of Central Africa province, these outside forces will heavily influence the group’s strategy, tactics and targeting. This has hugely complicated the trajectory of the conflict, and a regional force will have to carefully strategise on how best such a motivated fighting force can be defeated with Mozambique’s porous borders and an unpatrolled coastline.

However, time is against the SADC and Mozambique, as the longer the insurgents have to mobilise forces, from within the region and to attract foreign fighters, and the more finances and weaponry they are able to accrue, the harder it will be to defeat them,” said  South Africa’s Shannon Ebrahim, Independent Media’s foreign editor.