June 16, 2021

The Islamic State Resurges in Mozambique

Originally published in Foreign Policy

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader's awareness.]

You might think the Islamic State is dead. In fact, its newest branch is carving out a foothold in southern Africa—and extracting a huge price in lives and livelihoods along the way. In April, French oil giant TotalEnergies pulled out of Mozambique, declaring force majeure on a $20 billion liquified natural gas project, the largest private investment in Africa. The company withdrew its staff from a project site in the country’s far northern Cabo Delgado province after Islamic State-affiliated insurgents overran a nearby town in March.

The human toll dwarfs even this steep financial cost. The violence in Mozambique since 2017 has *killed more than 2,500 civilians. The number of internally displaced people jumped tenfold from 70,000 people in 2020 to 700,000 people in 2021 and continues to rise. The conflict has turned increasingly brutal, with frequent reports of beheadings and rape.

These scenes are a sharp reversal for a country that hoped its years of conflict were behind it. Mozambique’s government signed a peace deal with rebels in 2019, its latest attempt to halt the intermittent violence that has lingered since the end of the country’s civil war in 1992. The ruling party *bet big on natural gas as Mozambique’s ticket to prosperity. Instead, the bulk of the planned natural gas production is on hold—maybe permanently. Meanwhile, the Cabo Delgado conflict is *widening fault lines between Mozambique’s army and its police. And plans for a regional intervention have become *mired in competition.

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