Where crime compounds conflict Understanding northern Mozambique’s vulnerabilities

There’s been a lot of speculation, and some wild claims, about the militants in north Mozambique, and the illicit economy. Millions made from timber, rubies, ivory etc.

We went to Cabo Delgado and Nampula to check this out.

Our new report sets out our findings. Spoiler alert: the militants do not control any major contraband trade. But we did find out other, possibly more disturbing, things about their fundraising.

The illicit economy is still a vital piece of the puzzle.

You have to understand it in order to understand local grievances, and how state involvement in illicit trades undermines so much in Mozambique - including attempts to curtail the insurgency.

Illicit trade has fostered corruption in the north and, in this way, played a vital role in the breakdown of law and order.

See our Heroin Coast report for more on this and the role of elites in Nampula and Nacala.

Also, the militants relationship to illicit trades could change...

...It’s important to think about how that could play out.

Regional links - for criminal networks and for extremists ones - are also vital to understand. But for now, the militants’ involvement in illicit trade is opportunistic.

At the same time...

...Through an organised system of donations using mobile money, especially the Taaj service, the militant group has a small but diverse and resilient funding base.

...Nampula city may be an important fundraising location.

Current efforts to limit the free flow of people and goods in the region of Mocímboa da Praia and the Tanzanian border are not succeeding.

We found villagers in Mocimboa openly constructing a boat for smuggling which could evade police patrols.

Our own researchers were asked for petty bribes to skip being searched at key checkpoints.

The insurgents aren’t rolling in dough. Their equipment is rudimentary.

But our prognosis isn’t optimistic either...

This conflict is being handled clumsily and root causes aren’t being addressed.

And with two key elections in two years,

the illicit economy is going to grow...

...and violence may increase.

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