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Catholic Peace Entity Joins Voices Disputing Jihadist Narrative in Mozambican Crisis

Credit Denis Hurley Peace Institute

The leadership of the Catholic peace foundation, Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), has faulted the growing international narrative that Islamist Jihadists are behind the ongoing insurgency in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province.

The peace foundation joined other leading Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) that are researching the Mozambican crisis to compile a report detailing the drivers of the conflict in Cabo Delgado. 

All CSOs behind the report, “Humanizing Security in Cabo Delgado: A CSO Report on the Drivers of Conflict and its Impact”, agreed that the Mozambican crisis is hinged on economic interests and that it does not have anything to do with jihadism.

DHPI Director Johan Viljoen told Africa service of Vatican Radio that locals who spoke to the peace entity maintained that the Mozambican government is using violent means to drive people from their land, which will then be given to investors in the mining sector.

“We became concerned about the fact that if you look at the International discourse about what’s happening in Cabo Delgado, it all comes from Chatham House and from the US State Department,” Mr. Viljoen said, and added that the narrative of Islamic Jihad as the root of violence in Cabo Delgado has dominated the international discourse about the Mozambican Province.

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“The story that comes from the ground in Mozambique is very different,” he said, and added, “The way people perceive the conflict and what they see as the causes of the conflict is different. They speak at length to tell you plainly that what’s being said in Europe and in America, that the Islamic Jihadists want to establish a caliphate in Mozambique, is not true.”

The peace entity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) quotes locals as having said, “We’ve been living in peace with Muslims for the past 500 years. This is about mineral rights and to drive us off the land so that it can be given to prospectors and to investors.”

Mr. Viljoen said that many people that DHPI spoke to, including Catholic Priests and women and men Religious, hold the perception that the government is driving the people away to advance economic interests in Cabo Delgado, which has been said to be rich in natural gas and other minerals.

He spoke briefly about other details of the report, which was written by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Maputo and signed off by leading human rights organizations in the country.

The report, which was unveiled on October 28, was compiled by DHPI, the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (AfricanDefenders), and Centro Para Democracia e Desenvolvimento (CDD).

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Announcing the unveiling of the report findings, officials of AfricanDefenders noted that the study was unique as it had been based on experiences of locals themselves.

“This is the first report of its kind, and more importantly, the only report that draws on the experiences and analyses of Mozambicans themselves. It concludes with a series of recommendations for the international community, SADC and the AU, and most importantly the Government of Mozambique,” the officials said.

They added, “We want to help amplify the voices of ordinary Mozambicans so that people in power hear what they are experiencing and what they are articulating for their future.”

In the report, the CSOs note that the conflict that has been raging in Mozambique since 2017 is slowly gaining international attention, a situation that they say has led to the deployment of Rwandan and SADC forces who have been mandated to restore security to Cabo Delgado. 

The CSOs however note with concern that despite the military interventions, the numbers of displaced people in Cabo Delgado continue to rise.

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“While policymakers increasingly are concerned with finding substantive solutions addressing the root causes of the conflict, implementation remains sluggish and ordinary civilians remain marginalized,” they say. 

In the Wednesday, November 3 interview with Africa service of Vatican Radio, Mr. Viljoen expressed regret that the voice of the Mozambicans has often been silenced in the international discourses on the Southern African country.

“What you find in the international discourse is that the voice of Mozambican civil society and of Mozambican people hasn’t just been silenced. It is completely absent. It’s never been listened to,” he said.

The DHPI Director also found it regrettable that the Mozambican government was advancing an Islamist agenda to attract funding from the international community instead of being open about the situation of the people who he said are languishing in poverty.

“For the Mozambican government, of course, it’s very easy, very convenient to keep up with the narrative of Islamic Jihad,” he said.

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Mr. Viljoen made reference to an analysis that he said had been made by “a leading commentator on Mozambique” who allegedly said about the country’s government, ‘If they go out into the world and ask for assistance, because the poorest sectors of their population in the poorest province of the country are revolting and demanding better lives, nobody will help them. But if they come into the international stage and say this is Islamic terrorism, then everybody will jump on the bandwagon and the system’; that is what’s happened.”

“What we are trying to do is to bring the voice of Mozambicans into the international discourse as well and to show what they see as the root causes for the conflict and who are the people who are profiteering from it, and the impact of the ordinary citizen,” Mr. Viljoen said.