Mozambique: Cabo Delgado police commander asks reservists to remain 'ready'
Security expert Rodrigues Lapucheque thinks that fear of reprisals may be preventing Tanzania taking more decisive action in combating the armed groups terrorising Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique.
“Tanzania began, at a later moment, to have certain reservations, certain fears that when it entered heavily [in the fight against the armed groups operating in Cabo Delgado], these radical Al-Shabab movements could create reprisals, which could be unpredictable,” Lapucheque, a university lecturer and colonel of Motorized Infantry in the Mozambique Armed Defense Forces (FADM), told Lusa news agency in an interview.
The fact that international fighters who joined the insurgents in Cabo Delgado “regularly” cross Tanzania and operate in Mozambican districts close to that country may raise fears among leaders in Dar-es-Salam, Lapucheque explained.
“That’s why it was noted that Tanzania was the one that had a lot of reservations about intervening militarily in Mozambique, in Cabo Delgado,” under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) military mission..
But inaction is not a safe option either, because once chaos takes root in northern Mozambique, the armed groups will expand their action to Tanzania as well, Lapucheque says.
This reading and the SADC and Rwandan military intervention in Cabo Delgado, he continued, convinced Dar-es-Salam to send a military contingent in support of Mozambican government forces, albeit without the “weight” that Maputo might have expected, given the historical and political ties between the two countries.
“It is not the intervention that we would expect, we had hoped that it would be at the forefront,”stressed that academic and FADM officer.
Rodrigues Lapucheque warned that the apparent inertia of the Tanzanian authorities in stopping the flow of fighters to Cabo Delgado may also be a result of an operational and logistical inability to control the extensive border line between the two countries.
Lapucheque notes that expectations regarding a more active role for Tanzania in the fight against “radical Islamic jihadism” in northern Mozambique are fuelled by the fact that that country has militarily supported the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) in the fight against Portuguese colonialism, hosting the organisation’s headquarters and training camps.
Cabo Delgado province, in northern Mozambique, is rich in natural gas, but has been terrorized since 2017 by armed rebels, with some attacks claimed by the Islamic State extremist group.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), about 784,000 persons have been internally displaced by the conflict, which has killed about 4,000, according to the ACLED conflict registry project.
Since July 2021, an offensive by government troops, with the support of Rwandan and later Southern African Development Community (SADC) troops, has recovered a number of areas from rebel control, but their flight has led to new attacks in districts through which they have passed or taken up temporary refuge.