As the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, visits Mozambique, thousands of people are fleeing attacks in the country’s north as the conflict between armed groups and Mozambique’s government spreads.
On Thursday, the armed group linked to the Islamic State (ISIS), often locally called Al-Shabab or Mashababos, claimed responsibility for attacks on several villages, including two in Nampula province. Several witnesses told Human Rights Watch that this week armed men burned homes, a school, and a church in the Catholic Comboni Mission in the town of Chipene in Nampula. Many civilians were killed, including an Italian nun.
Nampula is south of where the armed group has historically been active, in Mozambique’s northernmost Cabo Delgado and Niassa provinces, a sign that the conflict, which started in Cabo Delgado in October 2017, is spreading.
Mozambique has been receiving international assistance, including regional military support, from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It is also receiving financial support and training for counterterrorism operations from the United States and the EU.
During Borrell’s visit on September 8-9, the EU announced that it was providing additional support to the SADC military mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), a regional peacekeeping mission, for peace building and community dialogue.
As part of its aid package, the EU should also prioritize humanitarian assistance to the almost one million internally displaced people who fled their homes in northern Mozambique over the past five years. The displaced remain in camps and informal settlements with limited access to basic necessities including food, health care, and education.
The EU should also ensure that women and children, who have been made exceptionally vulnerable by the conflict, play a central role in any dialogue and peace-building efforts it supports.
In his press remarks, Borrell stressed that the fight against terrorism should not only have a military component, and that “economic growth, job creation, wellbeing of the people, public services, education, health” are the basis of peace and of a “good society,” which he called “the only remedy against terror.” But the EU’s foreign policy chief did not mention a key component of this response: accountability.
The EU should ensure that any military training provided also focuses on prevention of abuses by the Mozambican armed forces. Mozambican authorities should investigate human right abuses by state security forces as well as the ISIS-linked group and prosecute those implicated in fair trials to ensure justice for the victims of this conflict.