Ahead of general elections planned for October 2019, a series of security crises have shaken the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique government of President Filipe Nyusi, which is already on the back foot due to the disastrous economic impact of the previous government’s huge secret loans (see TAR101, June 2018). Peace talks with the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (Renamo) opposition/ armed group are in doubt after the May death of former rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama, and the government is responding with violence to a growing Islamist insurgency in the north, home to large natural gas reserves that multinationals want to exploit. At the time of his death, Dhlakama was negotiating with Nyusi about security reforms and devolution – two key issues that need to be addressed in order to create a viable peace plan. The party chose Ossufo Momade, a former guerrilla fighter, to be the interim party leader and continue talks with the government. The military is said to oppose the integration of Renamo fighters, so Momade may have doubts about the government’s demands for disarmament, which would limit Renamo’s powers to destabilise. A new rebel group, the Islamist Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah, entered the fray last October. Some 30 men attacked three police stations in Mocímboa da Praia, in Cabo Delgado province. Composed of young and marginalised fighters, Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah has parallels with Nigeria’s Boko Haram. Ignoring Nigeria’s lessons with those Islamist militants, Nyusi’s government arrested nearly 500 people, closed mosques, and bombed villages suspected of hosting Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah members, while the intelligence agency is negotiating with Erik Prince, the founder of private security company Blackwater, to protect oil and gas infrastructure. Nongovernmental organisation Human Rights Watch estimates that the Islamist attacks and the government’s response to them have killed about 40 people and already displaced 3,000. Mozambique’s gas offers potential for economic growth, but, as with the government’s secret loans, many Mozambicans worry that such big deals will bring little positive change for the citizens of the country, more than half of whom live in poverty.
Villages have been torched in the north