ISIS troops gone into hiding, and struggling for food in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado – report

n its latest report, Cabo Ligado, a conflict observing entity, said that in the first two weeks of May, Islamic extremists in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province went into hiding after heavy defeats.

Recently, the group surfaced in search of food and released hostages they could not feed.

“After a flurry of violent activity in the previous two weeks, insurgents have once again withdrawn to their bases in the forests, appearing occasionally in search of food.

“Multiple incidents of raids for food were reported last week – and the insurgents appear to be releasing hostages to reduce the number of mouths they have to feed, though some hostages still serve a purpose in helping secure food supplies,” the report stated.

Citing a security consultant report, Cabo Ligado said: “On 10 May, insurgents raided the village of Nova Familia in Nangade district, stealing bags of dry cassava and other foodstuffs with no reported civilian casualties.”

A Rwandan soldier walks in front of a burned truck

A Rwandan soldier walks in front of a burned truck near Palma, Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. Thousands of Rwandan soldiers are assisting Mozambique amid insurgency.

Various other sources interviewed by Cabo Ligado corroborated the evidence that insurgents were not interested in battle or killings and were only scaring away people to seize food for survival.

Because of the insurgent’s position of weakness, security forces had been mobilising with notable arrests made. The largest contingent was on 13 May when a group of 12 were arrested after crossing into Tanzania in search of food.

SADC’s peacekeeping mission

Some Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries were reportedly satisfied with extending the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) well into next year instead of periodic three months which analysts said was not enough for planning.

A military convoy of South Africa National Defence

A military convoy of South Africa National Defence Forces rides along a dirt road in the Maringanha district in Pemba, Mozambique.
AFPAlfredo Zuniga / AFP

The current mission approved by SADC was scheduled to end on 15 July, and likely would be reviewed for a longer period, sources told News24.

South Africa had come up with R2.8 billion in funding for its forces in the oil gas-rich Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique that would run up to April 2023.

“This [budget] reinforces the regional commitment towards a longer-term deployment, which is most likely necessary as the force segues from a peace enforcement to a peacekeeping focus,” said Piers Pigou the Crisis Group’s senior consultant for southern Africa.

Displaced women meet at the Centro Agr‡rio de Napa

Hundreds of displaced flee attacks by armed insurgents in different areas of the province of Cabo Delgado, in northern Mozambique.
AFPAlfredo Zuniga, AFP

Two main forces were operating in Cabo Delgado – the SAMIM and the Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF).

There had been an encouragement for the two forces to work together in sharing intelligence and joint operations. In April, the two forces undertook joint operations in SAMIM’s territory the Macomia district where life is being gradually restored to normal.

Besides the joint operation, the deal between Rwanda and Mozambique in the peacekeeping mission remains shrouded in secrecy.

“Notwithstanding the impressive results from Rwanda and to a lesser extent SAMIM forces in the field, a total of 4 000 international personnel in support of Mozambican security forces will struggle to maintain widespread pacification of insurgents in the current circumstances. Security efforts need first to be consolidated,” added Pigou.

On the ground, RDF was better resourced than SAMIM and Pigou called it an “effective well-oiled machine” whose daily budget could be around R16 million a day which was two times what SAMIM had at its disposal.

With South Africa carrying the bulk of the SAMIM expenses, it had been agreed that the force needed a different funding model away from “self-funding”.

Therefore, like RDF, the SAMIM had applied for funding from the European Peace Facility.