Maputo — Mozambican Defence Minister Atanasio M'tumuke declared on Tuesday that the armed attacks in the northern province of Cabo Delgado are intended to hold back and sabotage development and peace.
Speaking in Maputo at a ceremony marking the opening of a week of commemorations of the 55th anniversary of the start of Mozambique's independence war, on 25 September 1964, M'tumuke said the occasion should be an opportunity for a deep reflection on the instability in some districts of Cabo Delgado.
The attacks on civilian targets in those districts sought to make sustainable socio-economic development impossible, he warned, and undermined the gains made by the young Mozambicans who launched the liberation war over half a century ago.
The situation, the Minister said, demands from the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM) "a high degree of preparation and combat readiness, in order to understand the modus operandi of the criminals and fight them better, thus maintaining public order and security".
M'tumuke urged the FADM to reflect on how to design strategies to ensure that future generations can enjoy the riches of Mozambique in an environment of security and effective peace.
For his part the Chief of Staff of the FADM, Lazaro Menete declared that the armed forces are redoubling their efforts to return order and tranquillity to Cabo Delgado.
"We are at war", he said. "There are criminals who are committing murder, and the only thing we have to do is defend our people".
The insurgents in Cabo Delgado are believed to be inspired by Islamic fundamentalism, and are known to have links with fundamentalists elsewhere in east and central Africa, notably in Tanzania. They are a shadowy force, who have never published any manifesto or list of demands, and whose leaders are unknown.
The insurgency began on 5 October 2017, with attacks on police installations in Mocimboa da Praia district. It subsequently spread to other districts in the northern part of Cabo Delgado, notably, Macomia, Palma and Nangade.
In Cabo Delgado, attacks have continued despite an increased presence of the defence and security forces to protect the current election campaign. Thus, according to a report in the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", a week ago, on 10 September, insurgents attacked Mitacata village, in Macomia district.
The attack occurred just five hours after the Macomia district administrator, Fernando Neves, had visited the district. In the raid, the insurgents burnt down almost all the houses in the village. One old man was burnt to death, but most of the villagers fled eastwards, towards the Indian Ocean.
"Carta de Mocambique" reported that the following day, ten members of the defence and security forces died in three simultaneous insurgent attacks against Mitacata, the nearby village of Ilala, and the headquarters of the Quiterajo administrative post.
During these raids, the attackers burnt down the local health centre and a Military Control Post.
Ten of the inhabitants of Mitacata died as they fled by boat up the coast towards Mocimboa da Praia. They drowned when the boat sank, possibly because of overloading.