Answering questions from members of the South African National Editors’ Forum, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country’s security forces were monitoring the developments in the gas-rich Cabo Delgado to ensure there are no threats spilling to neighbouring countries.
In addition to the killings, the fighting in the Mozambican region has displaced thousands of people who have fled from their homes to take refuge in other parts of the country – including the provincial capital Pemba, according to press reports.
The insurgency is mainly driven by the area’s youth who have expressed their allegiance to the Islamic State against the country’s exploitation of the region’s natural resources.
The local people’s restlessness started soon after the French energy multinational, Total, set up a multibillion-dollar gas mining project in the coastal waters of the province.
The jobless youth saw their natural resources being exploited by foreigners with the help of Maputo – but without any consideration to their plight amidst poverty in the area.
The resentment this triggered has now turned into an escalating armed insurgency which has seen Total temporarily shut down its operations, demanding that Maputo secure a 25-mile radius as a safe zone for the project area.
While there were only 2,000 people displaced at the start of the fighting in 2017, and 20,000 internally displaced persons in 2020, the number has now grown to over 500,000 people displaced from their homes and taking refuge with relatives and friends in safe areas away from the fighting.
The South African government said it had offered to help the Mozambican authorities in quelling the rebellion down but Maputo has yet to take up Pretoria’s offer, according to International Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor.
The humanitarian situation in Cabo Delgado, however, was said to be “appalling,” in the words of one aid worker who visited the area amid a government press ban to cover the insurgency.