Mozambique, mass displacements from escalating insurgency

Three girls in a sand road Three girls in a sand road Photo by Ninno JackJr on iStock

22 March 2021

Since 2017, there has been more than 2,500 people killed and 700,000 displaced in parts of Northern Mozambique

Widespread human rights abuses and disregard for international humanitarian law have been reported in Northern Mozambique, where a humanitarian crisis has been escalating for months. Attacks by militants linked to the Islamic State (ISIS), which have taken place since 2017, have significantly escalated in the Cabo Delgado region.

UNHCR reported cases of women and girls being abducted, forced into marriages, in some cases raped, or subjected to other forms of sexual violence. Leading aid agency Save the Children received reports that children as young as 11 had been beheaded, with one report outlining the horrific case of a mother having to watch her son be killed while hiding with the rest of her children. Over 700,000people have been displaced, with many being taken in by local communities in surrounding regions. The ISIS-linked insurgents behind the attacks are known locally as al-Shabab, Arabic for ‘The Youth’ – reflecting their primary support base of young unemployed people in the predominantly Muslim region of Cabo Delgado. They are unaffiliated with the al-Qaeda-linked group with a similar name in Somalia. It is unknown what their exact motivations are, given their lack of a manifesto.

Since October last year, the Mozambican government has been relocating IDPs to settlements located in nine districts across Cabo Delgado. The government has also focused on a military solution to the crisis, but has faced issues with its army being poorly equipped to face the insurgency. UNHCR is leading collaboration with the authorities to monitor and respond to the needs of displaced and host communities. So far, it has focused on setting up teams dealing with GBV prevention, and provided emergency humanitarian assistance. UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioners for Protection, Gillian Triggs, and Operations, Raouf Mazou, recently visited the area to gain a better understanding of the situation.

“What is needed is additional resources. We, as UNHCR, are working with the government, with the other international organizations to provide support, to provide help. But resources are needed, a lot of resources are needed,” said Mazou.


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Author: Tan Zhong Chen; Editor: Xavier Atkins

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