Mozambique: Insurgency in a Resource Rich Former Donor Darling, Part I
War has been destroying the previously idyllic Northern Mozambique since 2017. Former donors have withdrawn their support and there has been a rise in Islamic insurgents. The insurgents’ ostentatious violence have caused over 400.000 people to flee their homes. These seminars intend to explore the frameworks for understanding Mozambique’s return to war.
Aslak Orre (CMI), Helge Rønning (UiO), Bjørn Enge Bertelsen (UiB) and Stig Jarle Hansen (NMBU) in conversation with Carmeliza Rosário (CMI/UiB).
War has been destroying the previously idyllic Northern Mozambique since 2017. Mozambicans are watching with incredulity the videos flooding social media of Islamic insurgents menacingly displaying their weapons and extremist slogans. The insurgents’ ostentatious violence and the atrocious but ineffective response of the state security forces have marked the war. The death toll has surpassed 2200, and over 400.000 people have fled their homes.
The insurgents have pledged allegiance to ISIS and claim to belong to the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province (ISCAP). Most members are Mozambican, while some are from neighboring African countries. The objectives of the insurgents are still unclear. Yet with recent reports of insurgent attacks in southern Tanzania, the danger of a regionalised war has increased.
Following a brutal civil war that ended in 1992, Mozambique enjoyed peace and economic growth. In the mid-2000s, large coal reserves and the discovery of enormous gas reserves made the country a magnet for foreign investment. But things went sour. In 2008 and 2010, following rising cost of living, the country’s capital witnessed popular revolts. In 2013, the conflict with the former guerrillas in Renamo resurged and is still simmering. In 2016, a corruption scandal plunged the country into recession, with donors and the IMF withdrawing budget support. The insurgency has, for now, kept itself to the gas-rich province of Cabo Delgado.
Surprising as this insurgency is for most, the signs of deteriorating relations between the state and its citizenry are not new. Discontent once again takes its most radical and violent form: armed violence—this time with a new global ally, Islamic militant radicalism.
Is Mozambique merely yet another case of the resource curse? A failed experiment in neo-liberal donor dominance? Is the Frelimo regime – formerly a donor darling – rotting from corruption? What does the appeal of religious extremism over the traditional forms of opposition mean for governance? These seminars intend to explore these questions and other frameworks for understanding Mozambique’s return to war.
In this event 2-part event, Carmeliza Rosário (CMI/UiB) talks with Aslak Orre (CMI), Helge Rønning (UiO), Bjørn Enge Bertelsen (UiB), Stig Jarle Hansen (NMBU), Salvador Forquilha (IESE – Mozambique), Paolo Israel (UWC – South Africa), Anne Bang (UiB), João Feijó (OMR – Mozambique), Antonio De Lauri (CMI), Liv Tønnesen (CMI).
The event is organized in two sessions of two panels each.
Session 1, 3rd December:
Panel 1 – Aslak Orre and Helge Rønning, on Mozambique’s macro-political and economic context and donors’ role in anticipating and mitigating the conflict.
Panel 2 – Bjørn Bertelsen and Stig Hansen, on previous violence and armed conflicts in Mozambique, contemporary global warfare and Islamic insurgency dynamics.
Session 2, 8th December:
Panel 3 – Paolo Israel and Salvador Forquilha, on the insurgency’s specific dynamics in Mozambique, its local and regional links, including ethnic affiliations and cleavages, legacies of violence, and the role of the social media. Anne Bang comments on the conflict as viewed from neighboring Tanzania.
Panel 4 – Carmeliza Rosário discusses with João Feijó, Antonio De Lauri, and Liv Tønnesen the least researched dimensions of this conflict, forced displacement and humanitarianism, the terror-crime nexus, and female agency in insurgencies.
Carmeliza Rosário is a social anthropologist and coordinator of Global Challenges at UiB. She researches poverty, inequality, vulnerability, and human rights in Mozambique. Since northern Mozambique is facing fresh Islamist inspired insurgence, she has become interested in local and global dynamics of conflicts, with emphasis on exclusion and inequality.
Aslak Orre is a researcher at CMI and a political scientist. He has carried out research in and on Mozambique since 1996, with a particular focus on local governance, the party-state, corruption, and the political economy of petroleum resources.
Helge Rønning (UiO) is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Media and Communication. He has been a member of The Norwegian Government Commission for Freedom of Expression (1996–1997); The Public Service Broadcasting Council (1996–2004); Chair of the Committee for Efficiency in Development Policy (2002–2004). His areas of research are Media and Democracy; Freedom of Expression; Culture and Development; The Role of Liberation Movements in Africa; and China and Africa.
Bjørn Enge Bertelsen is anthropologist and currently professor of social anthropology at University of Bergen and director of the Global Programme on Inequality (GRIP). He has worked on and in Mozambique on issues such as violence, war, popular protest, and state formation for more than two decades.
Stig Jarle Hansen is a Professor at NMBU. He is interested in organised crime, religion, and politics, including religious terror. He has conducted research mainly in the Red Sea region, Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Kenya. His is the author of “Al-Shabaab in Somalia” and “Horn, Sahel, and Rift: Fault-Lines of the African Jihad.”