Henry Kohn is a correspondent at Today News Africa based in Washington, DC. Henry writes on foreign policy, politics, and the State Department. He has worked in Europe and West Africa and has a dual Bachelor’s degree in French and Environmental Science and Policy from Duke University
The United States is working at the national and local level in Mozambique, as it executes a “holistic strategy” to address worsening terrorism and violent extremism in the country, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters on Tuesday before a United Nations Security Council meeting on peace and security in Africa.
The U.S. is working with the Mozambican government and international and civil society organizations to address the immediate impacts on civilians of terrorist attacks and conflict between the government and the Ansar al-Sunna extremist group.
When the U.S. announced it would provide additional funding and supplies in humanitarian aid on May 6, it also said its strategy to combat terrorism and violent extremism in Mozambique included security as well as development and “community resilience” assistance.
[read_more id="2" more="Read full article" less="Read less"]
Asked on Tuesday what the U.S. sees as the root causes of violent extremism in Mozambique and how it seeks to address this issue, Thomas-Greenfield said “a lot of it boils down to being engaged with communities outside of the central government”.
“Making sure that the central government reaches to those communities so that those communities don’t feel isolated from the central government,” and therefore more susceptible to extremist or insurgent movements, which she added entails monitoring those “far-flung” communities for such “activities”.
The U.S. is therefore working with the Mozambican government “to build capacity to address the development needs of their communities but also build capacity to deal with the security challenges.” It is also working with organizations and people outside the government to build capacity at the local level, she said.
In remarks at the UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General António Gueterres underscored the importance of youth education and employment opportunities to prevent extremism and other criminal activity, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic “is contributing increased risks” to both.
The recent attacks in Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique, among other instances of extremist violence in other African countries, Gueterres said, “are tragic reminders of this serious threat” posed by violent extremist groups.
Since October 2017, attacks by the Ansar al-Sunna extremist group, also known as ISIS-Mozambique, have killed 1,300 civilians and displaced “more than” 700,000 people in northern Mozambique – And attacks have only grown in frequency and sophistication.
A concern now is that violence in northern Mozambique could spill over into neighboring countries, though the Mozambican government has not yet accepted further military assistance beyond training and intelligence from the 16-member Southern African Development Community or countries outside the continent.