Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Monday described the insurgents committing acts of terrorism in the northern province of Cabo Delgado as "cowards", but said he would be willing to talk to them, if they showed their faces.
The terrorists, known locally as "Al Shabaab" (but with no known connection to the Somali group of that name), began its operations in October 2017, with attacks on police premises in Mocimboa da Praia district. Since then the insurgency, believed to be inspired by Islamic fundamentalism, has spread to other districts (Palma, Macomia, Nangade, Quissanga and Muidumbe) in the northern part of the province.
No leader of the insurgency has ever shown his face, and the terrorists have never published any manifesto or list of demands.
Speaking at a rally in the provincial capital, Pemba, held after a meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), Nyusi did not rule out the possibility of sitting down and speaking with the insurgents, to find out why they are fighting.
"These people who are killing here in Cabo Delgado, if they show their faces and say what they want, we shall listen to them", he said. "But what they are doing is cowardice".
He told the crowd that the insurgents are trying to divide the population from the government and from the defence and security forces. They also attempt to inflame tribal differences. Despite their supposed allegiance to a pure form of Islam, "they don't even know how to pray in the Islamic manner".
Nyusi deplored the fact that young Mozambicans are dying after being enticed into the ranks if the insurgents. He cited the case of a young man who was captured and killed by the local population, who then delivered his body to his father.
The President lamented that armed violence is overshadowing economic advances in Cabo Delgado. "We aren't talking much about the economic undertakings, because it's always the war", he said.
Recently a new water system was inaugurated in Mueda district, and this should have been a festive occasion, said Nyusi, "But how would this be possible when people are dying?"
Nyusi took the opportunity to speak of the massive investments under way in the natural gas industry in Palma district. He stressed that 80 per cent of the people employed in the gas projects are natives of Palma. It could not be more than 80 per cent, he explained, because some of the jobs require highly skilled and qualified staff.
The President said the Council of Ministers had met in Cabo Delgado to seek inspiration and to express solidarity with the people of the province.