Desperate food shortages within the insurgency in Cabo Delgado in recent weeks have forced many fighters across the province to lay down their arms and surrender to authorities.
The food situation in insurgent camps has been critical since at least March when insurgents released over a hundred hostages in Macomia, Muidumbe and Mocímboa da Praia districts as they were unable to feed them. Food has been a major target of insurgent raids ever since and at the end of March, security forces warned locals in Nangade to be vigilant when going to their farms as insurgents were known to be scavenging in the fields for food.
By May, a local source in Nangade observed that insurgent groups in the district no longer seemed to be out to kill but were just looking for food to survive. According to local sources and security consultant reports seen by Zitamar, in May alone there were food raids on Olumbe in Palma on 6th, Nova Família in Nangade on 10th and 20th, Quifuque Island in Palma on 17th and Maganu in Nangade on 17th.
On 16 May, a 12-year old girl from Mocímboa da Praia who had been kidnapped by the insurgents turned herself in to the authorities in Macomia and a local source relayed her testimony to Zitamar News. She described severe hunger as insurgents are forced to live off a meagre diet of crushed plants and honey. On the same day, another former hostage surrendered and told authorities that the situation is so dire that many insurgents now wish to be rescued by the security forces.
Around this time, insurgent groups began to surrender en masse. According to Carta de Moçambique, on 15 May, a group of insurgents approached the village of Namuine in Nangade, and announced their intention to surrender. Security forces took up to 40 insurgents into custody, mostly young and inexperienced fighters, according to a security consultant tracking the conflict — who added that 19 more surrendered the following day.
Another source claims that a further nine men surrendered to Tanzanian troops in Nangade district on 17 May, after appearing to some youths and telling them they were exhausted from living in the bush. Three were said to be local, and six from Tanzania.
In Macomia, another group of 40 insurgents surrendered on 17 May, arriving at a military outpost armed but with their hands up. Earlier that day they had told a peasant to pass on the message that they wished to surrender as they had no reinforcements and had run out of food. Security consultant reports claim small groups of two insurgents also surrendered on Quirimba Island in Ibo district on 15 May and in Macomia on 19 May.
A local source in Macomia told Zitamar that the insurgents’ food crisis began after several of their bases were destroyed by security forces, inhibiting their ability to resupply, and local militia began to occupy vulnerable villages, making it difficult for insurgents to carry out raids.
Despite the collapse in morale within some ranks of the insurgency, there still remain fighters determined to continue their campaign of violence. On 20 and 21 May, three villages in Macomia were attacked and several civilians beheaded.
This article was produced by Zitamar and Mediafax under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.