God, grievance, and greed? Understanding Northern Mozambique’s new Islamist war

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Mueda Town Square in Mozambique, site of the 1960 massacre. Image credit: Gordon Wall/CC BY 3.0

In October of 2017, Muslim youth assaulted the large coastal town of Mocimboa da Praia in the northern province of Mozambique called Cabo Delgado, which borders with Tanzania and hosts the sites where multinational petroleum companies are planning Africa’s largest ever private investment to extract the offshore natural gas. It caught the government by surprise and baffled the general public.

By 2021, the conflict has claimed an estimated 2200 lives and displaced more than 700,000 people. The conflict has become increasingly international in character, and it threatensthe progressively more fragile and previously war-struck Mozambican state, as well as the region.

This research project is designed to acquire, and disseminate, a more comprehensive understanding of the multiple drivers of the escalating war in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado. The motives that may have turned the province into a hotbed for dangerous conflict: Religious extremism connected to a regional and global network; local grievances stemming from a sense of long-term political and economic marginalisation; and the greed and violence associated with a thriving smuggling economy and the poorly regulated extractive industries bonanza in Cabo Delgado.