The waters off Mozambique are becoming a major new security hotspot in the Indian Ocean. An Islamist insurrection in northern Mozambique that the government seems powerless to suppress has also increasingly led to disruption in the Mozambique Channel, a key global shipping route. The Quad countries and European partners must help contain the problem before other actors step into a regional vacuum.
The insurgency in Mozambique has the potential to destabilise Southern Africa and embolden Islamists throughout the region. It threatens security in the Mozambique Channel, the 1800 kilometre long waterway between Madagascar and East Africa that carries some 30% of global tanker traffic. It is also the location of some of the world’s largest gas reserves.
The insurgency was started in 2017 by groups drawn from Muslim communities on the so-called “Swahili coast”. This has now included more than 800 separate attacks across northern Mozambique, resulting in at least 2600 deaths and more than 600,000 people displaced. A report from the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council also pointed to transnational links, with Somali-based Islamists in Puntland acting as a “command centre” for Mozambique insurgents. However, other analysts discount close operational links with Islamic State.