In late-July military advance teams from South Africa and Botswana began to deploy to northern Mozambique to support governments forces in their fight against a growing Islamist insurgency. They will join Rwandan combat troops and military training contingents from Europe and the United States. But there is little cause for optimism. There is a significant risk that current regional support for Mozambique will not achieve its objectives and that a larger international military coalition will be required to quell the fighting.
Mozambique doesn’t seem capable of containing the growing conflict within its borders. Over the last year or more, Islamist extremists have taken control of large parts of its northern provinces, capturing large towns from government forces on several occasions, most recently including the regional centre of Palma. According to the United Nations, as many as 1 million people may have been displaced by the fighting. Mozambique’s government has floundered its response and attempts to use foreign mercenaries have failed.
The National Security College (NSC), with the support of the Department of Defence, is leading a two-year research project on Australia’s Indo-Pacific strategy in the Indian Ocean. As a part of this project, this paper analyses the growing crisis in Mozambique. This paper first appeared on the Lowy Institute’s ‘The Interpreter’ on 29 July 2021.
Image: Maurits Vermeulen/Flickr