Mine invasion, war, aid, media attacks, climate crisis
The civil war in Cabo Delgado is expanding, with government portraying the war as foreign backed and needing foreign military assistance and restrictions on media. But an invasion of a ruby mine by many artisanal miners points to the importance of lack of jobs. Meanwhile torrential rains exacerbated by the climate emergency have affected the same areas hit by cyclone Kenneth, cutting off all roads to the north of the province and the gas developments.
Attacks in north, west, south
Three new attacks show the spread of the Cabo Delgado civil war. Nangololo in Meluco district was attacked on Saturday morning (15 Feb) with one person killed and houses burned. Nangololo is on the N380 road, which is the main road from Pemba to Palma. It is also halfway between Macomia and Bilibiza, which was attacked and suffered major damage on 29 January. It was announced Monday that the damage to the Agricultural Institute there was so serious that classes will have to be moved to lower level schools in the south of the province. Bilibiza was the southernmost attack so far.
Last week (12 Feb) two neighbouring villages in Nangade district, Chicuaia Nova and Litingina, were attacked. Two people were killed and houses and shops burned. There was a response from a nearby military base and the attacks were limited. Nangade is in the north of Cabo Delgado on the border with Tanzania and inland from Palma. Litingina had been attacked previously in November.
Also on 12 February there was an attack, apparently by the insurgents, in Mecula district of Niassa province (bordering Mueda, Cabo Delgado). This is the further west of any attacks so far. Police say they killed 8 attackers and injured 15. (Carta da Mocambique 17 Feb)
The 12 February attacks were a day after President Nyusi was in Pemba for a cabinet meeting to discuss the war.
Provincial authorities say that 156,000 people are affected by the war, and that 76 schools and 4 health posts have been destroyed or damaged. The Catholic bishop of Pemba, Luiz Fernando Lisboa, estimates that at least 500 people have died in the war.
Thousands have fled to the coast or to the provincial capital Pemba. Provincial authorities says 14,000 peasant households have abandoned their farms, and 2,000 fishermen have had to flee. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic, says number of displaced people is at least 100,000. (AIM 10 Feb)
At a meeting with the diplomatic corps in Maputo Friday (14 Feb) President Nyusi complained that countries have offered help to combat the insurgency, "but when we ask them how they want to help, they say nothing - there is nothing concrete." (Lusa 14 Feb, Zitamar 17 Feb) The only military help has come from Russia, but its Wagner Group mercenaries failed and were forced to withdraw.
Nyusi's praise singers call for 'extra-legal actions' against the press
"Extra-legal actions" should be taken by police, army and security services against journalists who report "despondent 'news' that demoralizes the Defence and Security Forces (FDS)" in Cabo Delgado. Carta de Mocambique, its editor Marcelo Mosse, and those who provide information to them "are not patriots", wrote Juliao Joao Cumbane in an 11 February post. Their activities "must not be allowed or tolerated."
Cumbane is not an ordinary Facebook polemicist, but a backer of the President who has been rewarded for his work. And his call to intensify press restrictions in Cabo Delgado has brought widespread criticism. The Media Institute of South Africa, the Mozambican journalists union, and the Portuguese Language Journalists (FJLP) have all attacked what they see a call for violence against journalists.
Social media has become an important battleground and leaders have a modern form of "praise singers". President Armando Guebuza had a group called the "G-40" of about 40 commentators that state media were expected to use and who posted regularly on Facebook and other social media to praise Guebuza and fiercely attack his critics. Filipe Nyusi has followed that model, with his own praise-singing bloggers. Their importance during the elections was recognised when one of the most important of the G-40 who had moved to praise Nyusi, UEM physics lecturer Juliao Cumbane, was rewarded in November with the post as chair of the National Company of Science and Technology Parks (ENPCT). (Savana 29 Nov 2019) Two other Nyusi praise singers have also received government posts, Gustavo Mavie as a board member of the Matola grain terminal and Amorim Bila as deputy director of the Financial Information Office.
The government does not want the war reported by journalists or studied by academics. Several journalists have already been arrested and illegally detained for extended periods for reporting the war and there are restrictions on foreign journalists going to Cabo Delgado to report. Carta de Mocambique has the best correspondents and been the most effective in reporting the war.
No roads north
Exactly the area of central Cabo Delgado hit by the unprecedented Cyclone Kenneth in April 2019 has been hit by heavy rains a month ago and then again last week, causing high flood levels in the Montepuez and Messalo rivers, The January floods destroyed sections of bridges over both rivers on the N380 which goes from Pemba north to Palma. An attempt was made to build a temporary causeway (known as a "drift") across the Montepuez river, but that has been washed out by the more recent floods. Waters are falling but still above flood level and there is no chance of opening the N380 for at least two months. This section of road is also under regular attack by insurgents.
The only other, much longer, route north is via Montepuez and Mueda, but the dirt road is now mud and impassable for lorries. So there will be no overland cargo transport from Pemba to the gas developments for some time. Small passenger planes now fly Pemba-Palma, but cargo must go by barge.
This is the climate crisis
Ten months after Buzi, Sofala, was cut off by flood waters from cyclone Idai, it is cut off again, and floodwaters on the Buzi and Pungue rivers are still rising. Two other areas hit by Itai were hit again last week, with floodwaters cutting off Dombe and Mossurize, Manica. At least two bridges have been washed away in Manica and Sofala.
Meanwhile, reservoirs in the south are not filling, and there is a shortage of rain.
Both cyclones last year were unusual. There had never been a cyclone in central Cabo Delgado. And the way Cyclone Idai built up its power and rain content was unusual. Both were due to the rising temperature of the ocean, which fuels cyclones.
And all climate crisis forecasts for Mozambique have been for less rainfall in the south, while in the centre and north total rainfall will not change but it will come in more intense bursts. So what Mozambique is seeing is the predicted impact of the climate crisis - and it will get worse.