BY LILLA SCHUMICKY-LOGAN, Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) and RICHARD RANDS

With recent military successes resulting from multinational force operations against the violent extremist organization (VEO) in Cabo Delgado (known locally as al-Shabab), and the initiation of multistakeholder dialogue, there is a clear window of opportunity for peace in northern Mozambique. By building on the recent hard and soft gains (military successes and the opening of multistakeholder dialogue), there are opportunities to begin addressing the root causes of the conflict. Establishment of a local government-led multistakeholder platform for Cabo Delgado province provides a mechanism to achieve this, while the conditions to resolve conflict remain favourable.

Last August, the port city of Mocimboa da Praia was re-occupied by the Rwandan and Mozambique forces. Concurrently, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) authorized assembly and deployment of intervention forces from Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Tanzania.  The World Bank, EU and the United States (among others) have pledged significant amounts to  support development and interventions to counter / prevent violent extremism (C/PVE) in Cabo Delgado. These conditions: deployment of credible and capable multinational forces; developmental support; C/PVE interventions; and multistakeholder dialogue to generate “local solutions to local problems” provide a basis for the key drivers of conflict to be addressed to ensure a sustainable peace.

Conflict issues

Before aid, financial or otherwise, is invested in northern Mozambique, it is crucial to thoroughly understand the underlying causes of this conflict. An in-depth assessment of conflict in Cabo Delgado has been conducted collaboratively by two organisations: Centro para Democracia e Desenvolvimento (CDD), a Mozambican Civil Society Organisation, and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), a multistakeholder global fund to prevent violent extremism, providing support to over 200 community-based organisations in 14 countries.

The number one issue identified was the lack of community agency. Communities in Cabo Delgado and the surrounding provinces of Niassa and Nampula feel they have few opportunities to be in control of their own lives. Decisions are taken for them rather than by them. There is systemic corruption in the provinces: people in power rarely consider what is best for their community.

Second, north-south inequalities exist on every level. Although international private sector investment brings significant potential to Cabo Delgado, individuals and communities in the northern part of Mozambique rarely benefit from that sector’s success. Businesses and people from southern Mozambique are brought in to work in all sectors, even for manual labour. Jobs and local contracts generated by the Afungi Liquified Natural Gas development project, which is currently on hold, are mainly taken by the southern entities, seemingly through elite capture.

Third, the limited socio-economic opportunities, including for the residents of the neighboring provinces of Napula and Niassa, impacts how young men (many of them members of the VEO) conduct themselves. Few have opportunities to access higher education. At the same time, they cannot access loans through the formal banking system to start their own businesses. In some instances, the VEO has provided them with interest-free loans, steady income and, at times, scholarship to education / training abroad.

Fourth, the limited socio-economic opportunities highlight the struggle of the people, mainly the Mwani ethnic group, for political inclusion within the governance framework of Cabo Delgado at the expense of their extremely powerful Makonde neighbors. Hence, they have been excluded from development, decision-making, and power sharing. As well as the Makonde, people from the southern part of Mozambique have been granted lucrative mining concessions and prestigious administrative posts at the expense of other ethnicities.

Fifth, generational divide is linked to political exclusion and has resulted major grievances by younger generations. More than 50 percent of Mozambique’s population is below 18 years. They perceive those in power since independence as having lost touch with reality and youth ideals. The vast majority of those who joined the VEO are in the youth demographic.

The window of opportunity

By establishing inclusive multistakeholder dialogue in Cabo Delgado, many of the issues identified could be addressed. Agency and inclusion are two extremely important elements of sustainable peace. The UN has defined inclusivity as:  “the extent and manner in which the views and needs of parties to conflict and other stakeholders are represented, heard and integrated into a peace process”. A multistakeholder platform that includes representatives from the different segments of society and includes internally displaced people, small- and large-scale private sectors, vulnerable and educated youth, faith-based organisations, military and security forces, development agencies and CSOs, as well as national and local government representation, would encompass just that. Through a coherent engagement and coordination strategy, all voices could be heard. This is not something unique to Mozambique, examples in other parts of Africa have proven that multistakeholder dialogue ensures buy-in and can drive peace processes.

Large-scale development aid can establish a foundation for long-term social and economic opportunities. Development aid must aim to put local authorities into the driving seat, so individuals and communities view them as credible service providers, thus gaining social license. Development aid also needs to support short- and medium-size private sector investment. Aid must work with existing businesses and with those wishing to establish one.

Lastly, the ruling elites must recognize that youth must be provided a chair at the decision-making table. While they need to come with humility and an open mind to learn, consideration of their ideas and interests is vital to avoid future conflict. By understanding the needs of different youth groups, more relevant services may be provided to them by local authorities and development organisations. A multistakeholder platform where listening and empathy guide dialogue is a way to establish a basis for peace in Northern Mozambique before the window closes.

Posts on Deconflictions represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of FFP.