Cabo Ligado Weekly: 18-24 May 2020

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Cabo Ligado — or ‘connected cape’ — is a new conflict observatory monitoring political violence in Mozambique, launched in partnership with Zitamar News and Mediafax with the support of the International Crisis Group.

Situation Summary: 18-24 May

Last week saw a lull in insurgent attacks, with only three attacks reported, none resulting in any civilian fatalities. Insurgents burned homes and a fuel station in Mussomero and Namirumo, both in Quissanga district, on 20 May. Both Mussomero and Namirumo were largely deserted when the attacks took place. In Macomia district, insurgents attacked Koko on the afternoon of 24 May, confiscating food from the village but neither killing civilians nor burning homes.

The lull is not out of character for the conflict, which has often seen periods where insurgents regroup following periods of high activity. There is no indication that the drop in attacks is the result of any particular success on the government’s part, nor of a strategic shift on the part of the insurgents. Instead, the story of the week has been of a slow, continued government advance through Quissanga and Muidumbe districts (see Government Response, below), with insurgents withdrawing ahead of government forces rather than engaging in major combat. In Miangalewa, Muidumbe district, for example, insurgents remained in the town and were playing football with locals as recently as 20 May, but were gone by the time government forces arrived on 22 May. The ease with which insurgents have evaded advancing security forces suggest that they continue to receive good intelligence about government movements.

Insurgent tactics appear unchanged in the attacks that did take place last week, targeting homes and transportation infrastructure and gathering resources for the insurgency. Fears that the insurgents are increasingly targeting Christian religious infrastructure, after insurgents looted a house for Benedictine monks and burned a Catholic hospital under construction in a 12 May attack on Awasse, Mocimboa da Praia district, were dismissed by the bishop of Pemba Dom Luiz Fernando Lisboa, who pointed out that the Awasse attack also targeted other buildings near the monks’ home. The Islamic State certainly emphasizes attacks against Christians in its messaging, but there is little to suggest that this emphasis is driving insurgent targeting decisions on the ground.