2 March 2021

1. Multi National Corporations Focus On Mozambique
The International Energy Agency forecasts an increase in the global demand for natural gas in 2021 , positioning Mozambique to become a leading global LNG player. This will increase Mozambique’s geo-strategic importance, as well as the internationalization of the conflict in Cabo Delgado. Due to its strategical location, Mozambique has the ability to transport gas to the Asia-Pacific region as well as its ability to foster regional integration among East and Southern African countries who are producers of LNG.

2. Changing Of The Guard After General Mussa’s Death

General Bertolino Capitine, the deputy chief of staff of Mozambique’s military, is beginning to appear in the media as a personality in his own right. On 19 February, Capitine’s interview with the media became part of a glossy video released by the military that introduced Capitine as a man of the people focused on winning the conflict in Cabo Delgado. The press rollout for Capitine is notable because it comes at a time of confusion over who will lead the government security effort in Cabo Delgado going forward. In January, Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi shifted control of government forces in the province from the police, under police chief Bernardino Rafael, to the military. He appointed General Eugénio Mussa as both the new military chief of staff and commander of government forces in Mueda. Nyusi appointed Capitine as deputy chief of staff at the same time. Mussa, however, died in early February of Covid19. No replacement has been named.

Capitine’s position is more complicated than Mussa’s was, as he is a former Renamo guerilla and some members of Frelimo will likely be wary of turning power over to someone of his background. However, an effort is being made to position Capitine as a worthy successor to Mussa. Both domestic and international audiences are closely following how the military succession will play out. With government forces in the midst of major offensive operations in Cabo Delgado, it is important that there is clarity about the structure atop the chain of command. Mussa was seen as a key figure in coordinating military cooperation between Mozambique and Portugal. With Mussa dead, some in the Portuguese military are reportedly uneasy about how a promised mission to train Mozambican soldiers in counterterrorism techniques will go forward.

3. Humanitarian Crises Deteriorates

A new United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report put the number of people displaced in northern Mozambique at 668,000 as of the end of 2020. 68,000 people were displaced in the month of December alone. OCHA also estimates that, across Cabo Delgado, Niassa, and Nampula provinces, 950,000 people are suffering severe food insecurity, 665,000 of them in Cabo Delgado itself. Since over 90% of displaced people (over 600,000) are staying in host communities rather than housed in resettlement centers, food and other resource pressures extend to host families as well as displaced people. Cholera cases are also on the rise, particularly among displaced people.

4. Renewed Attacks On Press Freedom

Publishing criticism of government policies within Mozambique may become riskier going forward, as a proposed new media law would severely restrict press freedom. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has sounded the alarm about the proposed law, which would allow the government to prosecute journalists for defaming the president and would limit the number of Mozambicans that could work for foreign news outlets to two. The law would also ban foreign broadcast media, such as RTP and Deutsche Welle, from the country and prevent Mozambican media from reproducing foreign news content. MISA and other civil society advocates believe the law to be unconstitutional.

5. Situation Update
With the lull in fighting due to the cyclone being over, there has been a resurgence in armed attacks. The first reports of major insurgent resistance to the government’s ongoing offensive came in two weeks ago, beginning with an insurgent attack on government forces in Roma, Mocimboa da Praia district, on 16 February. Insurgents withdrew after looting part of the village. Many civilians fled, fearing that insurgents would return. No casualty estimates for the battle are available. Roma sits on the road between Mueda and Mocimboa da Praia town, close to the border of the two districts and west of the crucial road junction at Awasse. That insurgents struck Roma suggests that the government, despite its offensive, has not consolidated control over the routes through western Mocimboa da Praia district that government forces will need to travel in order to reach Mocimboa da Praia town over land.

Also on 16 February, insurgents attacked government forces in Xitaxi, Muidumbe district, stealing food and military supplies.

On 19 February, insurgents attacked Quionga in northern Palma district near the Tanzanian border.30 insurgents were involved in the attack and the raiders remained in the town until the next morning. Insurgents killed four people, burned homes — including that of the head of the administrative post — and looted food in the village.

Food shortages continue to be a crisis in Palma, as the relief convoy missions of early February have not continued. There were over 50 trucks waiting in Nangade late last week, unable or unwilling to complete their trips to Palma due to security concerns and rain that has made the road treacherous.

An armed group invaded and killed residents of the coastal village of Quirinde, northern Mozambique, on Friday 19 February. The attackers entered from the beach in the early evening, surprising the population during dinner time. The armed group used machine guns and machetes. Preliminary reports indicate that seven people died, three of whom were beheaded. Local sources report destruction of houses, looting of food and other products in addition to the abduction of residents.

Another attack followed, on Saturday night, in the same area, against the Namoto border post between Mozambique and Tanzania, next to the Rovuma River.

Helicopters from Mozambican forces have been flying over the area in pursuit of the attackers and cars with military personnel have moved from the district headquarters, Palma, to the area.

On February 19, local sources reported an attack on Quionga with the death of four people, the aggressors being repelled on the 20th by Mozambican forces, fleeing north, towards the border.

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