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Zitamar Week in Review, 17-23 March 2024

A look back at the week that was in Mozambique, as covered by Zitamar News

Maputo City. Photo: Faizal Chauque / Zitamar News

Good afternoon, happy Sunday, and stay safe if you're reading this in Maputo, where heavy rainfall since early this morning has caused serious flooding.


More dramatic videos of the situation are available on our Telegram channel:

Zitamar Mozambique Live Blog
Amateur videos show dramatic scenes of flooding in Maputo.

Cabo Ligado, our joint project to monitor the conflict in northern Mozambique in partnership with global conflict database Acled, published its latest Monthly report this week, with the various articles featured on Zitamar News too.

The ongoing insurgency has been portrayed differently by various parties recently. President Nyusi made out that the insurgency may threaten Maputo if not handled correctly, whereas defence minister Cristóvão Chume said last month that the insurgents were simply firing shots in the air and burning houses.

Fragile government communication
Inconsistent communication between authorities lies at the heart of Mozambique’s flawed response to its insurgency

Regardless of how government perceives the threat, Islamic State Mozambique has been active recently, burning 18 churches in just three weeks last month.

Islamic State Mozambique’s war on the church
The burning of 18 churches in Cabo Delgado province by insurgents raises questions about the religious nature of Mozambique’s insurgency

IS Mozambique also released five separate photo reports over the month, containing 94 photographs, writes Acled's Peter Bofin.

The material presented gives us clues about the leadership and the importance of IS’s jihadist ideology to ISM. We get a sense of current numbers, the resources at their disposal, and a sense of the relationship with IS media operations. We also get an insight into the conditions in which Mozambique’s military operates.  
What IS photo reports tell us about the conflict in Cabo Delgado
Media shared by Islamic State Mozambique reveals details about the country’s ongoing insurgency

Perhaps unsurprisingly, force majeure has yet to be lifted on the Mozambique LNG project, but that hasn’t stopped work taking place at the Afungi site. Satellite images show clear evidence of construction there, and a plane likely to be operating on behalf of the Rwandan security forces has been flying back and forth.

Work ongoing at TotalEnergies’ Mozambique gas project since December, open source data shows
Satellite imagery and flight records suggest there has been significant activity at the Afungi site in Cabo Delgado province in recent months

Ruling party Frelimo continues to delay the selection of its next presidential candidate, and by extension the country’s likely next president, as factions struggle to agree on a viable option. Savana this week reports that Amélia Muendane, head of the tax authority and reportedly a member of Nyusi’s inner circle, will almost certainly be on the shortlist of candidates produced by Frelimo’s Political Commission. That was the topic of our Leader article on Friday.

To keep on top of that and all the important stories coming out of Mozambique, join our growing number of subscribers, and support independent journalism on Mozambique:

Have a great weekend.

Week in Review


The president without a plan
As the humanitarian impact of the insurgency worsens, Nyusi can offer only bluster
Depending on whom in the government you listen to, the Islamic State-backed insurgents in Cabo Delgado province are either not engaging in serious fighting at the moment, just firing shots in the air and burning down the odd hut; or they are so much of a threat that they will reach Maputo if the country does not unite to defeat them. The first comment was made by defence minister Cristóvão Chume last month, and the second by President Filipe Nyusi in a speech last week.


Elections are needed, not selections
While the two main parties struggle to pick candidates for the presidential election, the country’s needs are ignored
Mozambique’s ruling party Frelimo and its largest opposition party, Renamo, are both struggling with their choice of candidate for the presidential election in October (see below). For Frelimo, the problem seems to be to come up with a candidate agreeable to both outgoing president Filipe Nyusi and to Frelimo leaders (there is not expected to be a genuine contest, but rather, one preferred candidate and two paper candidates are to be selected by the Political Commission and then voted on by the Central Committee). For Renamo, the problem is to have a contest at all, since current leader Ossufo Momade has been trying to stay on as the candidate, in the face of increasing opposition.


Who will develop Cabo Delgado?
Replacing the head of the government’s ineffective development agency is not enough
There can be little regret in Cabo Delgado province today at the dismissal of Armindo Ngunga as the head of the Integrated Northern Development Agency (ADIN). Since its foundation in 2020, ADIN has been largely invisible from the province and Ngunga, who led it since April 2021, has come across as an incompetent manager. The agency seems to have achieved little beyond organising workshops and studies. A study by the National Institute of Statistics last year found that Cabo Delgado had the lowest average income in the country, at just over $90 a month. Just 3% of the population got their driving water from a piped network, and 0.6% had flushing toilets.


Doing deals with murderers
The extradition treaty with Rwanda puts refugees’ lives at risk
Mozambique is shortly to have an extradition treaty with Rwanda, after the treaty was approved in outline by parliament yesterday (see below). Ruling party Frelimo used its majority to push through the measure, which opposition parties voted against. According to opponents of the treaty, its passage will mean that the government of Paul Kagame will be able to do through legal channels what it has previously done through illegal ones, which is to persecute opponents of his rule who have fled abroad. Critics, including the NGO the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights and the MDM party, also claim that the treaty has been agreed in exchange for Rwanda’s military support fighting the insurgents in Cabo Delgado province.


Frelimo’s leading lady?
Evidence is growing that Amélia Muendane may emerge as the preferred candidate of ruling party Frelimo
Carta de Moçambique’s report from October 2022 names her as one member of a “triumvirate controlling the business of the state”, alongside Nyusi, and one of his closest allies, minister in the presidency Constantino Bacela. Muendane’s profile is undoubtedly being raised. Profiles have been recently created by or for her on Facebook and on Instagram, and she has a starring role in a new publication covering Frelimo activities in Cabo Delgado province. With strong opposition in the party to Celso Correia taking over as leader, Nyusi may see Muendane as his next best option for continuity.