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Thousands Flee New Violence in Northern Mozambique

Ensure Security, Adequate Assistance for Displaced People

Displaced people from the province of Cabo Delgado gather to received humanitarian aid from the World Food Program in Namapa, Mozambique, February 27, 2024.  © 2024 Alfredo Zuniga/AFP via Getty Images

A new wave of deadly attacks in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado by an armed group linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) is forcing thousands of people to flee. The attacks, by fighters known as Al-Shabab or Mashababos, include raids on villages in Chiure district, where at least four civilians were killed, and a clash in Macomia district, in which 25 Mozambican soldiers died.

Officials estimate that over 67,000 people have fled from villages across Cabo Delgado’s southern districts in the past two months, many to the neighboring province of Nampula, where the government has set up camps. The United Nations reported that those who have fled urgently need assistance and protection. Mozambican authorities should work with humanitarian agencies to ensure camps have adequate shelter, sanitation, and access to food, clean drinking water, health care, and education.

The armed group also destroyed houses, churches, schools, and health centers, according to media reports. This puts pressure on already degraded public services in the region, which has been engulfed in an armed conflict between the ISIS-linked group and regionally backed government forces since October 2017.    

The government has downplayed the insurgents’ threat, insisting that the security forces, which are backed by troops from Rwanda and countries of the Southern African Development Community, have the situation under control. But recent events show that people in Cabo Delgado are far from being safe even in places previously considered secure and able to accommodate those displaced by the conflict.

Mozambican authorities should improve security for residents in threatened areas and ensure better protection and reintegration plans for people who decide to return to their homes. Authorities should also move swiftly to bring to account all those responsible for killings of civilians and other abuses. 

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