SANDF troops drive along a dirt road in the Maringanha district of Pemba, Mozambique.
- The insurgents challenged SADC forces in Mozambique to follow them into the bush for action.
- Crisis Group says SADC forces are ill-equipped to wage guerrilla warfare.
- Weapons are smuggled to insurgents using public transport.
On December 15 last year, Islamic extremists in Nova Zambezia, Macomia district, beheaded a pastor and ordered his wife to take her head to the police with a message: “While you [government forces] walk on paved roads, real men [insurgents] are in the woods.”
It was a thinly veiled message to the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) operating in the region.
In November and December, SAMIM recorded a considerable victory, killing insurgents and attacking their bases in Cabo Delgado.
The attacks forced the insurgents to retreat into the bush in guerrilla groups.
READ | Insurgents plan deadlier attacks in Cabo Delgado, SADC warns
The Crisis Group – a think tank that tracks indicators of social conflict in southern Africa in its review of the past three weeks in northern Mozambique – said the pastor’s beheading was a propaganda message.
“The content of the message recalls the central tactical problem confronting Mozambican and allied forces during the vast majority of the conflict,” the group’s review said.
The insurgents’ message also exposed SAMIM’s shortcomings:
…their ability to operate is severely restricted once they leave the main roads because their equipment and training is built around armor rather than infantry or air assault capabilities. By arguing that the tactical dynamics have not changed, the insurgents are arguing before a civilian audience that foreign interveners have not changed the fundamentals of the conflict despite Rwandan successes in the districts of Mocimboa da Praia and Palma.
As a show of power, insurgents operating from the bush ambushed SAMIM forces east of Chai in the northern district of Macomia on the night of December 19, resulting in the death of a southern soldier. -African.
The Crisis Group, in its review, also suggests that the insurgents enjoy support within the communities where they operate, with some civilians helping them to transport weapons.
“On December 20, police stopped a bus carrying passengers from Nampula to Pemba, just outside Nampula, after receiving a tip that a group of passengers had refused to open their bags at the request of the employees of the bus company. The police searched the bags and found firearms.
“No details have emerged about the extent of the cargo or the types of weapons involved, but a witness reported that the passengers carrying the bags told police upon arrest that others had already carried weapons. weapons on the same route,” the report said. .
Since the insurgency began in 2017, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) says there have been 1,111 cases of organized political violence, 3,627 deaths from organized political violence and 1,587 deaths due to organized violence targeting civilians.
Addressing SADC Heads of State and Government in Malawi at the Extraordinary SADC Summit on Mozambique, the SADC Chairperson, a President of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, said member states should integrate the youth empowerment in the reconstruction of Cabo Delgado.
This would be a means of thwarting insurgent recruitment campaigns. Disgruntled youths are easily recruited as fighters.
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